Our Challenge

The need for reading intervention has never been greater. Due to Covid-19 learning disruptions, current early elementary students have never had a normal school year of uninterrupted, in-person learning. As a result, many are now performing two or more grade levels below expectation. Reading Power’s proven program of high-dose tutoring can accelerate reading skills growth and get students back on track.

Reading Power makes a difference!

Reading Power serves children in North Chicago, Waukegan, and Zion, Illinois by providing early literacy interventions to prekindergarten to second grade students.

​Population Served

Students from underserved communities face several obstacles to their education before even entering the school doors.

  • The students Reading Power serves are eighty-one percent low-income and ninety-five percent minority (2021 IL School Report Card).
  • The students live in a book desert. Sixty-one percent of America’s low-income children are growing up in homes without books (Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study, 1996).
  • Black and Hispanic households are three to four percentage points less likely than white households to have reliable access to devices, and three to six percentage points less likely to have reliable access to the internet (Pew Research Center).
  • Minority students in kindergarten through second grade are not making as strong of an academic comeback as white students post-pandemic. Therefore, the learning disparity gaps have grown larger than before the pandemic (Amplify, 2022).

Despite these obstacles, Reading Power students develop the resiliency needed to survive difficult situations. Having the one-to-one social and emotional support of Reading Power tutors in their lives cannot be undervalued. This daily interaction gives these students what all children deserve and need. It is a critical component of our program’s success.

Demographic Chart
Student and Teacher

A Brief History of Reading Power

Reading Power, Inc. was founded in 2003 by Mary Jane N. Hender, EdD, a Reading Specialist, and Reverend Dr. Gordon Butcher, a literacy activist, to  provide early intervention and individual attention to those students who were not being served in North Chicago and Zion, Illinois elementary schools. The cornerstone of the program is helping to accelerate children’s literacy learning early, before they have a chance to fail.

Reading Power’s one-to-one first grade tutoring intervention is modeled in part after Project Prevent, a program developed by National-Louis University, and incorporates facets of Reading Recovery, an internationally renowned early intervention literacy program. The kindergarten and 2nd grade tutoring programs were developed by Dr. Hender for the North Chicago elementary schools and adapted for use by volunteer tutors. The prekindergarten program was developed in 2015 by former program director Rebecca Mullen, MSEd, and Dr. Hender.

Improving a child’s reading is a priceless gift – one that continues to give over a lifetime!

Student with Books

“Reading Power is a tremendous program for high-poverty elementary schools. Its focus on early literacy is critical for children who arrive at school already behind. Reading Power’s way of partnering with teachers has resulted in students increasing their confidence in learning and has provided students with mentors who truly care about the child’s progress and achievement.”

Kristi Long, President, United Way of Lake County


Our Schools

North Chicago, IL

3131 Sheridan Rd
Great Lakes, IL 60088


1811 Morrow Avenue
North Chicago, IL 60088


2100 Green Bay Rd
North Chicago, IL 60064


Waukegan, IL

2230 N McAree Rd
Waukegan, IL


901 N. Lewis Avenue
Waukegan, IL


1775 Blanchard Rd.
Waukegan, IL


Zion, IL

1910 Gilboa Ave
Zion, IL 60099