A Brief History

Reading Power, Inc. was founded in 2003 by Mary Jane N. Hender, Ed.D.,a reading specialist, and Dr. Reverend Gordon Butcher, a literacy activist, to provide early intervention and individual attention to students who are in need of literacy services in the North Chicago, Illinois elementary schools.

The cornerstone of the program is helping to accelerate children’s literacy learning early – before they have a chance to fail.

Reading Power’s one-to-one first grade tutoring intervention is modeled in part after Project Prevent, a program developed by National-Louis University, and incorporates facets of Reading Recovery, an internationally renowned early intervention literacy program created by educational researcher Marie Clay. The kindergarten and second grade curricula were developed by Dr. Hender for the North Chicago elementary schools and adapted for use by volunteer tutors.

Through a unique partnership with the school district, Reading Power provides tutoring in its own classroom during the school day, setting it apart from the more familiar after school model.

A.J. Katzenmaier was the original school site for the new program and it continues to be the base for the Executive Director.

In 2005, Reading Power hired four professional tutors to work with children at a second school in North Chicago, Green Bay Elementary School, where kindergarten, first, and second grade students continue to be tutored. 

The following two years saw significant growth - a kindergarten program was added at Yeager School, another professional tutor joined the Green Bay team, tutoring hours were increased and an afternoon kindergarten program was added. Twenty-three new tutors joined Reading Power that year, so a fourth school, South School, was added to the program. 

Forrestal Elementary School was added in 2009 as a five day a week tutoring program under the direct supervision of a site coordinator. In 2010, reading specialist and Executive Director, Rebecca Mullen, MSEd., was hired, and the Forrestal program expanded to include an afternoon program three days a week. The tutoring hours were later increased at South Elementary and a professional site coordinator was hired. With the final addition of North Elementary School in 2013, which provides tutoring for kindergarten and first grade students four mornings a week, Reading Power has fulfilled its mission to provide one-to-one tutoring in all of North Chicago's elementary schools.  Following the formation of grade level centers by North Chicago District 187 school in 2014, the North Chicago program was consolidated into the North and Forrestal centers.  Reading Power also established its first program in the Zion elementary district at Beulah Park Elementary in 2014. 

Reading Power has grown throughout each year of its twelve years and has set up site-coordinators at each school to guide volunteer tutors.  The program is under the leadership of the Executive Director of Programs. Reading Power is regularly recruiting and training volunteer tutors throughout the school year to meet the literacy needs of the children in North Chicago and Zion.

For the first six years, Dr. Mary Jane Hender, served as the volunteer, full-time Executive Director and developed the one-to-one tutoring programs and supervised their implementation. She retired in January 2009 and the first paid executive director was hired. The program is now led by Rebecca Mullen, MSEd. – a certified reading specialist and teacher.

"Imagine, being able to positively influence the learning trajectory of children with great life challenges at the earliest stages of school. 

In Reading Power, we support and accelerate the literacy learning of students in the early grades."

–Dr. Mary Jane Hender, Co-founder, Board Director


“The staff and students at Beulah Park School love Reading Power.

The Reading Power program has empowered our students to become better readers and writers while building their self-confidence.

Reading Power has been another intervention to help our students shine and to achieve to a higher level.”

 Lynn ButeraPrincipal, Beulah Park Elementary School