Pistons' 2020 Reading Challenge

Goal = Read 3,000 total hours in one semester!

Launched in January 2020 in partnership with the Detroit Pistons, the 2020 Reading Challenge was a further step SAY Play has taken to foster a culture of reading. In addition to the benefits of setting and reaching weekly goals, students were rewarded with small prizes, such as Pistons' branded "swag bags" filled with reading materials and craft supplies. Students also enjoyed a virtual meet and greet with Pistons' player Langston Galloway. Even with the shift to remote reading logs because of citywide shutdowns, 130 students completed the challenge by May 29th. In fact, they had completed over 2,200 hours before all recreation centers were closed by the City of Detroit in early March.

The doors of SAY Play opened in the fall of 2015 with a deceptively simple mission: to develop great readers and great people. Recent SAT research shows that the lowest performing group in the state of Michigan by county, based on race, were black students from Wayne County, with just 10.4 percent meeting college benchmarks. SAY Play exists to assist students from low-income families overcome literacy inequities while improving themselves and their communities.

Program-wide reading challenges add extra layers of fun and incentives to an activity that already pays dividends. According to one of the most exhaustive studies on the topic to date, independent reading volume has been shown to be the single best predictor of reading achievement in elementary children (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988). Simply put: the more reading both in minutes and in words read by students outside of school, the better their reading proficiency, vocabulary, comprehension, and knowledge of the world.

In a pilot reading intervention program launched in the 2017-2018 academic year, 84% of participating members in grades 3 - 6 grew one year or more in reading levels. The 2020 Reading Challenge is just one way that SAY Play advanced its reading intervention programs for all members at all grade levels.

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Nearing the end of the 8th Annual SAY Detroit Radiothon, host and founder Mitch Albom read a special announcement on behalf of Detroit Pistons' owner Tom Gores, who had heard about the desire to launch a semester-long reading challenge at SAY Play: he pledged to donate $250,000, allotted at $10,000 for every week our students met their weekly reading challenge hours over the next 25 weeks. The challenge would also coincide with the second half of the  2019-20 NBA season. And so, once again, the Pistons and SAY Play would be changing the game for Detroit youth.