“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.” – J.K. Rowling
For students at Saint Anthony Catholic School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, magic does indeed fuel reading through the generous donations of Joseph and Winifred Amaturo of The Joseph & Winifred Amaturo Education Foundation.
Strong believers in the power of reading and education for their entire lives, Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo have been funding Renaissance Accelerated Reader® and other Renaissance programs for Saint Anthony Catholic School and 16 other schools in the Broward County Archdiocese for a long time.
As lead since 2006, Terry Maus has worked hand-in-hand with the Amaturos. “Their impact is HUGE,” stated Maus, also the principal at Saint Anthony Catholic School. “Without their generosity, several schools in our Archdiocese wouldn’t have access to Accelerated Reader or other materials.”
“Their impact is HUGE.”
Principal, Saint Anthony Catholic School
That generosity doesn’t go unnoticed. Opening its doors in 1926, Saint Anthony Catholic School became the first Catholic school in Broward County, Florida. A designated landmark by the National Register of Historic Places, the school has more than 482 students in pre-K3–8. In addition to using Accelerated Reader to encourage reading and intellectual growth, the school, along with others in the Archdiocese, uses Renaissance Star Assessments® and Renaissance-U®—all funded by The Joseph & Winifred Amaturo Education Foundation.
The challenge: Inspire students to read and become lifelong learners
Joseph Amaturo’s best friend William Ruane was the visionary behind the Carmel Hill Fund Education Program. After attending school together at Harvard Business School, they then together introduced a school in Harlem to Accelerated Reader. Seeing the success, Mr. Amaturo wanted to bring the same idea to life in south Florida through The Joseph & Winifred Amaturo Education Foundation.
In addition to supporting a series of educational causes, Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo were most keen on bringing Accelerated Reader to children and getting books in their hands after witnessing how students gravitated toward achieving their reading goals and seeing firsthand how even the most reluctant students soon became voracious readers during their Harlem school experience.
“There’s something to be said about the students’ smiles each time they return a book to the school library,” said Mr. Amaturo. “Reading opens doors and takes students to new worlds. Seeing them experience that absolute joy sold us.”
“Reading opens doors and takes students to new worlds. Seeing them experience that absolute joy sold us.”
The Joseph & Winifred Amaturo Education Foundation
The results: Engaged students who love reading, expanded vocabularies, and measurable growth
While the smiles are the best part, the second biggest benefit that comes out of Accelerated Reader and Star Assessments is the vast amount of student data.
“While students read and take tests, the data helps our educators better prepare our students for standardized assessments or high school entrance exams. We can determine who needs additional help and what is and isn’t working,” said Maus.
However, that data would be nothing without the culture of reading that’s been created. At each school in the Archdiocese, the benefits are evident and the impact is an important part of the Archdiocese’s educational program. Students talk to others about what they’re reading. They’ll have discussions about Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dog Man during lunch. Students visit their libraries. The culture of reading is a natural part of each school, and it shows with Accelerated Reader bulletin boards, T-shirts, million-word readers, word-club lunches, and more. In 2018 alone, there were 493 students who read more than one million words and a combined 187,282 books across the 17 schools in the Archdiocese.
“A little girl comes to mind when I try to explain what Renaissance has done for our schools, the reading culture that’s been created, and the Archdiocese in general,” said Maus. “We had a girl who used to hate reading. She didn’t want to give it a chance. However, after using Accelerated Reader, she fell in love with reading and the thrill of checking out new books. There have been numerous transformations like that, and that makes it all worthwhile and lasting.”
Of course, all of this wouldn’t be possible without Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo. Between funding the Renaissance programs, purchasing new books for schools, or helping purchase incentives for students, their reach is extensive and doesn’t go unappreciated. Continuously, students and educators will send Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo notes of appreciation and cards in the mail:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo,
Thank you for helping me become a reader. The AR program encouraged me to read more in order to reach my AR goal and to read above it! I learned how good it feels to succeed. I am grateful for the AR program at my school.
Samantha (Grade 5 student at Saint Ambrose Catholic School)
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo,
Thank you very much for funding the AR program! Without you guys, we wouldn’t be able to read all these books! Reading takes me into another world of fantasy and dreams. After reading a book for hours on my bed, when I look up, I see the worlds of these characters. I dream of one day having my books in schools and everyone leaving to another world of dreams. I recently hit 1.2 million words, which is my first time meeting this. Some characters in books I can relate to so much. I feel overjoyed when I read and hope to keep on reading like this.
Elena (Grade 6 student at Saint Anthony Catholic School)
Notes like these arrive by the dozen. Mr. and Mrs. Amaturo’s investment and dedication have a lasting impact and have created a true culture of reading—putting books in the hands of students and helping thousands of students fall in love with reading. And that in itself is true magic.
“We can’t disappoint the children,” concluded Mrs. Amaturo. “Accelerated Reader is the last thing we’d ever stop funding. The growth and pure joy that comes out of it is too powerful. Not just for the children, but for us as well!”
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