Podcast Appraise the Phrase Tackles Low Literacy Rates With New Initiative


( ENSPIRE Features ) Literacy Initiative, Raise the Bar, Has Helped Young Students in Washington DC 

ENSPIRE Contributor: Ana Luque

Low literacy rates affect a lot of underserved communities in the United States. Aware of the ongoing problem, the team of the hit podcast, Appraise the Phrase, has funded and worked on a new literacy initiative named Raise the Bar. Mario Hines and Twenty Williams, the creators of Appraise the Phrase, began their literacy program in Washington DC. Hines’ goal with Raise the Bar initiative is to partner with all schools in the D.C. area to raise literacy rates which he believes will have a direct impact on the rise in youth violence the city is dealing with.

Hines began the initiative at Kipp DC Heights Elementary, where he reads books by Black authors to Mr. Miere’s 2nd-grade class. Currently, Hines and Williams are working on summer initiatives and are looking forward to work with Mr. Miere’s class once classes start. 

Mr. Miere’s 2nd Grade Class

They recently spoke to ENSPIRE about their initiative and the future of Raise the Bar.

Could you tell us more about how the Raise The Bar literacy initiative came to be?

The Raise The Bar literacy initiative came to life because of seeing the success of The Appraise The Phrase Show and its ability to spark an interest in words, language, reading, research, and reading comprehension. Twenty and I want to do more than have a “popular” Youtube show. We want to make an impact and we both are passionate about supporting young people. Students were hit hard in the literacy department when the pandemic kept them home, and under-resourced communities were impacted the hardest. The literacy rate issue is a national one (and is bigger than youth literacy) so we thought…hey we can try to do something about this. 

What’s been the most rewarding part of the Raise The Bar initiative?

It continues to be a joy to see how much young people take to reading and learning when introduced to new ways of approaching words. Outside of that, it has been extremely encouraging to see how much support we received from organizations, educators, change-makers, etc. There seems to be a village we are joining to make this happen. 

How was it reading to Mr. Miere’s 2nd grade class? Could you tell us more about it?

The Reading Day sessions with Mr. Miere’s 2nd Grade class were an exciting start to our literacy initiative. We were privileged to join Mr. Miere’s class to read books from black authors, specifically ones empowering and uplifting black students, which is the majority of the class (and school). We also do a Q&A afterward to help support reflection and mindfully connect with what they read with how their lessons can apply to their lives. And, most of all, we get to build real relationships with the students and support them as they grow, learn, and give feedback. We can’t wait to do more when school starts again!

What is in store for the future of Raise the Bar initiative?

We don’t want to reinvent the wheel. There are so many potential partners we are in talks with to provide more awareness, resources, and support to improve the literacy rate amongst young people while encouraging reading, writing, reading comprehension, and an overall re-connection with the power of words. Be on the lookout for some announcements really soon!

What are some of the other initiatives the Appraise The Phrase team has planned for the future?

We have also begun moving towards being a platform for protecting and supporting the arts. As a voice in language arts, we recognize how important all the arts are in supporting how we learn, grow, and build community. We have started an ATPartners initiative where we connect with other creatives, educators, and change-makers in other arts spaces to create content. We rolled out a content lineup that features TV/Movies, Music (Hip hop), Culinary Arts, Education for kids (ATP Kids), and social empowerment and advocacy. You can find all the shows on the Appraise The Phrase YouTube channel. 

What do you hope people can take away from your podcast and any of your literacy initiatives?

The goal is to spark our creative, intuitive, passionate selves. We want listeners, viewers, supporters, and those we serve to understand the power they possess…through language, words, reading, writing, and the arts‌. With ATP specifically, we hope to re-establish a desire and love for the written and spoken word. And to arm themselves against misinformation.

What can someone do if they want to help Raise The Bar and any future initiatives?

Great question and very happy you asked. There are 3 main avenues to support:

  1. Donate to the Raise The Bar Initiative via appraisethephrase.com/atpkids. You’ll find a link that you can donate to that will help us add and share resources to the school partnerships we have (like Mr. Miere’s class) and are developing. 
  2. Reach out to us if you know of reading and literacy programs in your area. OR know of programs in need of support. 
  3. Spread the word! Keep up with the Appraise The Phrase youtube channel, social media channels, and appraisethephrase.com. We will use those avenues to keep supporters up to date on all things Raise The Bar. 

We at ENSPIRE can’t wait to see what the future holds for the Raise the Bar initiative. To keep up with the Appraise the Phrase team and their future initiatives check out their website

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