IRA-ABA Fast Break for Reading Campaign sets new student reading goal of four million minutes by March 2014

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fast Break for Reading, a literacy-focused partnership between the International Reading Association (IRA) and the American Basketball Association (ABA), will once again challenge schools and students to accumulate reading minutes to qualify for sports incentives and a chance to attend the ABA finals. Last year’s campaign generated more than 2.1 million minutes of student reading, and this year the goal has been doubled to 4 million minutes by March 14, 2014.

“Fast Break for Reading was an enormous success,” explained Stephen Sye, IRA’s Associate Executive Director, “producing an intensive effort by schools and teachers to drive student reading to new heights. Research shows that even 10 minutes of regular reading every day can improve student performance substantially.” Joseph Newman, CEO of the ABA, agrees: “I will do everything I can to encourage all ABA teams to support Fast Break for Reading in the coming year.” Last year 25 of the league’s 80 teams actively supported the program.

First Book Joins the Team

In another exciting development, Sye announced that First Book, the international nonprofit social enterprise that provides access to new books and educational resources for programs and educators serving children in need, has now joined the Fast Break for Reading Team. Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 100 million books and educational resources for children from low income families in the U.S. and Canada. Teachers whose students qualify for First Book assistance can secure additional reading materials to use in fulfilling their Fast Break reading goals.

Connecting Sports and Books

Fast Break for Reading connects books to sports, not just by providing team giveaways to schools and students with the highest logged total reading minutes, but also by fostering school level competitions. Last year’s winner, the Raymond E. Voorhees School of Oak Ridge, NJ, unleashed a formidable effort in which 353 students and 60 staff members topped a million total minutes of reading by devoting 20 minutes a day throughout the campaign.

If student reading is the “score,” another component of the program, the Buckets & Books program, might well be regarded as the “assist.” Under Books & Buckets, fans who drop off books at ABA games receive half-price game tickets, and the books collected are then donated to local schools.

Moreover, the league created a unique opportunity for teachers attending IRA’s San Antonio conference to get in the game by hosting a free throw contest at a basketball hoop set up by the main registration desk. Players from the local ABA team, the Texas Fuel, were on hand to show support.

Easy Online Signup

Signing up for the Fast Break program is easy. Teachers will find specially designed materials ready for them at the IRA website, using the link These include an official program reading log and a certificate of participation. Student logs are maintained and turned in each month and the website takes care of tracking totals. The website also includes a link to www.firstbook.orgwhere teachers can determine their students’ eligibility for free and low cost books to create enriched learning experiences as part of their schools’ Fast Break participation.

Students who participate in Fast Break for Reading receive a certificate of participation, a ticket to an ABA game of choice, and eligibility for a grand prize at the conclusion of the program. The top reader at each school will also receive an outstanding achievement award from the ABA and IRA. The student who reads the most total minutes and is taught by the teacher whose students accumulate the most total minutes for the program will receive a grand prize including air fare and a one night hotel stay to an ABA final game.

Teacher Liaison Opportunities Offered

The ABA currently fields teams in 90 unique markets. The league is looking for teacher volunteers to facilitate relationships between individual teams and local school districts and schools. Among other options, these teacher liaisons can coordinate ABA visits to local schools, as well as student outings to ABA games.

Interested teachers should determine the ABA team nearest their school by accessing the ABA website at and then submitting their liaison application at or at Liaisons will receive team jerseys and access to any designated team game. They will also receive a free IRA E-ssentials digital publication.

As the program proceeds, teachers can also catch up on the latest Fast Break developments and updates via social media by using the #FastBreak4Reading hashtag on Twitter and “liking” the International Reading Association page on Facebook. They can post comments and upload pictures of their classes attending a campaign-related ABA game.

About the International Reading Association

The International Reading Association is the world’s foremost expert on literacy. A non-profit global network dedicated to advancing the quality of literacy instruction and research worldwide, the International Reading Association supports reading teachers and other literacy professionals by providing professional development resources, advocating for policy and practices that benefit all teachers and students, and conducting research that promotes informed decision-making about literacy practice in the classroom. With more than 53,000 members worldwide, the Association is one of the world’s largest educational membership organizations. Visit for more information.