Dr. Tamora McConnell, Educator

Tamora McConnell has seen the detrimental effects of America’s literary crisis up close. The longtime educator spent over a decade in the public school system of Jackson, Mississippi—as a teacher and assistant principal, as a curriculum lead for the English language arts, and now as an interventionist working with struggling students. On the flip side, she’s also seen the monumental impact a research-proven approach—backed by science, like ReadWorks—can have on student achievement. “I always say ReadWorks is my Beyoncé,” says McConnell, who has a doctorate in education. “It’s a game-changer.”

Learn more in our one-on-one with McConnell, including how you can help your child read better at home. Plus, in honor of National Back-to-School Prep Day, she shares top tips on how to get your kids back into an academic state of mind. We’re also doubling our donations all day long, so every online order will give back even more to ReadWorks and this great cause.


How have you used ReadWorks in your classrooms?

I’ve been using it since I first started teaching. I transitioned from being a math teacher and the program gave me the support I needed as I entered the reading field. Even when I incorporated other books into my class, I used ReadWorks as a guide on how to develop my lesson. It not only saved me, but it also prevented many of my students from falling through the cracks.

What makes it so effective?

It’s user-friendly and easy for anyone to access, the resources are research-proven and it aligns with standards—which can be hard when every state, every district and even every school has its own expectations. I’ve worked in three districts across Mississippi and have used ReadWorks every time; the integration is seamless. And it’s free! It doesn’t get better than that.

Could you share any anecdotes about its impact?

I was tutoring twins from another district who were struggling readers and needed to pass the third-grade gate, which, in Mississippi, requires that every student pass a reading test in order to go to the next grade. I gave them Article-A-Day exercises to do from ReadWorks—that helped them to not only pass the test but also perform better in school. I double-checked with the parent and their teacher wasn’t using ReadWorks at all, so even just the small doses they got with me helped them grow tremendously.

Advice to parents on how to help kids at home with their reading skills?

Start with ReadWorks’ Article-A-Day, which doesn’t take a lot of time—ten minutes—but will be very impactful. Not only will it expand your children’s background knowledge on a variety of topics but will also give you a chance to interact and communicate with them. Parents can use the topics as a talking point, so it helps with speaking as well as reading and writing.

What can parents do if they think a disability like dyslexia or ADHD is impacting their child's reading?

Take note of what behaviors you notice. Is your child easily defeated when reading? Or just bored and doesn't want to do it? Share your observations with your school to see if the same thing is happening there and talk to them about MTSS (multi-tiered system of supports), which provides support to struggling students and can determine if they need to be tested for a disability.

Advice for parents as we near the back-to-school season?

1. Get your children back into their routines two weeks before school starts. If they haven’t had a bedtime all summer, set it and slowly move it up each day. That way, it won’t be a battle to get them to wake up early—and that shift in mindset will guide the trajectory for the rest of the day.

2. Take the time to go to all the open houses and back-to-school events. Don’t just ask questions; listen!

3. Build a rapport with your teachers. Check in to see what they need, not just at the beginning of the school year but throughout the semester. Because back-to-school is like having a baby. Everyone is there at the shower, but then eight months later, all the support and gifts have disappeared.

From now to the end of September, we will donate a portion of proceeds from every single order to ReadWorks, which is committed to solving America’s reading comprehension crisis and student achievement gap. #VBGIVESBACK