For the last few years, Renaissance has enjoyed the privilege of working with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Read to the Final Four®, a third-grade reading competition that takes place alongside the NCAA basketball tournament.

Why third grade? As Matthew White, the NCAA’s assistant director of community and corporate relationships, said, “A lot of research has been done showing that third grade is pivotal in the educational success of youth. Until third grade, students are learning to read, while from third grade on, students are reading to learn. This is why the NCAA has put a strategic focus on the third grade.”

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The basketball tournament was, unfortunately, canceled, as we all do our part to maintain social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19. Reading, on the other hand, is a safe activity during this period of self-isolation, and students participating in the competition continued to the end.

Even without the Final Four basketball tournament as the backdrop, students in the Atlanta metro area put in a ton of effort, reading for nearly 16 million minutes collectively. That’s more than 30 years of reading time! Here’s how we helped them make that investment in themselves.

About the Author:

Todd Brekhus is the chief product officer, leading the corporate strategy, at Renaissance. During more than 25 years of experience, he helped create myON, a personalized literacy platform that is part of Renaissance’s literacy portfolio. He also spent eight years as a teacher and technology leader in schools. In 2014, he was awarded the prestigious Lamp Lighter Visionary Award by the Association of American Publishers, and was named the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient by SIIA Company CODiE Awards. He can be reached at