Making It Better: A Charity with Its Heart in the Right Place
Mike and Jacque Daughtry
In the Houston area, one in four third-grade children doesn’t meet the minimum State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading standards.
Making It Better works with children entering kindergarten who don’t know their colors, letters, or sounds to get them up to point by third grade. Other than for the obvious reasons, why is this such an important goal? The answer is simple. If these children haven’t achieved the desired reading level by grade three, they are at risk for dropout and incarceration.
We recently sat down with Jacque Daughtry, Executive Director of Making It Better and asked her a few questions about her organization and its goals.
CKW Luxe: Please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started with Making It Better and how the Guild became a part of the organization.
Jacque Daughtry: My educational background is in business, specifically HR and accounting. I worked in the HR field for about two years after graduating from the University of Houston in 1981. After becoming a full-time mother in 1983, I went back to work part-time, primarily doing accounting and office-management work while raising children, which enabled me to be home and to be a very active participant in their schools. I served on parent teacher organization (PTO) executive boards from 1990 to 2004 at the Houston Independent School District (HISD) schools my children attended, serving six stints as PTO president. During that time, I also served on HISD-wide committees. My business/accounting background, as well as my intense volunteer work in HISD, definitely prepared me for my role as executive director for Making It Better, which began at the inception of the organization in January 2007.
Making It Better was formed in March 2013 out of our desire to engage a committed group of ladies that would provide a pool of volunteers, as well as another avenue for fundraising and spreading the message about our organization and the issues facing at-risk children in our community. Our founding guild president, Tricia Zieben, served on our board of directors, and she seemed to be the right person to bring this dream of a guild to fruition . . . and she did! I am a guild member personally and serve as a pseudo-liaison to the organization in my role as executive director.
CKW: What do you see as the biggest barrier to reading for these children before they reach school age?
JD: There are multiple barriers, but I believe the over-arching one would be poverty, which leads to: parent(s) working multiple jobs, thereby leaving little time or energy for such things as reading and doing other things with little ones; parents who are uneducated and/or illiterate—although they want more for their children, they do not feel equipped, nor do they understand that they are their child’s first and most important teacher; lack of knowledge regarding the crucial cognitive and language development that takes place from zero to three years of age and how easy it really is to foster that development; lack of age-appropriate books in the home; lack of enriching experiences, such as visiting a children’s museum, going to the library, traveling (even to nearby places), and so on; and a lack of access to quality pre-school—even Mother’s Day Out.
CKW: How do you think this problem can be solved or improved?
JD: Parent education is the key. Meeting parents right where they are by providing support, encouragement, and supplies (books and other similar necessities), as well as modeling activities that can be used to develop literacy skills at home.
CKW: What programs does your organization offer to help children improve their reading levels?
JD: Our excellent programs include:
Reading Intervention Program
This consists of highly personalized small-group reading tutorials (four students to one tutor) that serve students in kindergarten to second grade that are classified as Tier 3 (lowest performing). This program is facilitated by paid staff with volunteers assisting and takes place on HISD campuses during the school day.
Ready, Set, Read!
This is a weekly program for toddlers and moms, or caregivers, focused on pre-reading and school-readiness skills in a very fun and interactive environment. It is facilitated by volunteers with one staff person providing oversight and takes place in apartment complexes in which we have our Reading Intervention Program and is open to any resident.
This twice weekly after-school program serves students in first to fifth grades. Lessons are literacy rich and students have many opportunities for field trips, fine arts, and other experiences to help develop language and vocabulary skills. The program is facilitated by paid staff with volunteers assisting and takes place in apartment complexes associated with a school in which we have our Reading Intervention Program.
Volunteers meet weekly with four single gender students during the students’ lunch time. Lessons are literacy rich and foster comprehension skills and vocabulary development through group discussion.
Parent Partnership (Family Literacy Nights and parent workshops)
These are programs that engage and educate parents, as well as provide them with materials to continue literacy development at home.
All the programs listed above get books into our students’ homes through our take-home backpack program, which is a weekly book exchange, and through gifts of two to four books per child during the year to help start or supplement their home libraries.
CKW: How many children has your organization helped and what are your goals for assistance in the future?
JD: Our first program began in January 2007 at one school, Walnut Bend Elementary, where we still serve children today, with 91 students—primarily hurricane Katrina evacuees. This year, we expect to serve over 1200 students and 275 parents in eight HISD schools and three apartment complexes. Our goal for 2016 to 2017 is to add an apartment complex, which will include Ready, Set, Read! and Steps 2 Success.
Making It Better establishes relationships within the community by building trust, respect, and commitment. It partners with parents, schools, other nonprofits, and community members to achieve the best results. It also provides access to high quality programs that concentrate on developing the whole child. The organization will help even more students and parents in the coming year than it did in 2015. In doing so, the guild will not only improve the reading skills of an at-risk population, it will also enrich the lives of the students and their parents and give them the chance of a brighter future.