The history of American Reading Company (ARC) began with one powerful idea. CEO and founder Jane Hileman, then working as a reading specialist, challenged a group of second graders reading on a kindergarten level to read 100 books. By giving them the choice to read books leveled to their abilities—books in which they were interested—her 100 Book Challenge enabled students to experience reading success and encouraged them to read more. Ms. Hileman and her colleagues used daily conferencing and assessment sessions to coach each student and to ensure that the shared curriculum met their needs. They were offered inexpensive prizes as incentives for reading a certain number of books. Parents were supported in establishing the home routines essential to sustained reading and long-term academic success. As a result, even the most reluctant of students got hooked on reading through Ms. Hileman’s 100 Book Challenge, and soon, all the second graders had dramatically improved their reading scores.
Word of the 100 Book Challenge spread, and Ms. Hileman was invited to bring the program into Philadelphia city schools, where her ideas for reading improvement were put to use in several of the district’s poorest and poorest-performing schools. When two of the schools were recognized for doubling the percentage of students reading on or above grade level, 100 Book Challenge was cited as one of the reasons behind the schools’ successes. With the support of the William Penn Foundation, 100 Book Challenge spread to more than 70 Philadelphia schools. In 1998, the Abell Foundation of Baltimore asked Ms. Hileman to provide her program at ten Baltimore city schools. To fulfill that order, Ms. Hileman decided to establish 100 Book Challenge as a business.
Over time, the company’s core program, 100 Book Challenge, was expanded to include Research Labs (thematic, integrated, project-based learning units in science and social studies) and Action 100 (a response to intervention accountability framework for whole-school transformation). To reflect its national customer-base and its growing list of products and programs, the company changed its name from 100 Book Challenge to American Reading Company in 2004.
American Reading Company’s rapid growth and success in the classroom has not gone unnoticed. As one of the fastest growing companies in the United States, ARC has attracted minority investments from Random House and Ironwood Investments. It was recently recognized as one of the Top 500 Diversity Owned Businesses in the U.S. and is the recipient of the 2006 Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Jane Hileman, American Reading Company CEO, founder, and senior author of its Research Labs and Action 100 programs, has been honored as one of the Top 50 Business Women in Pennsylvania and as a Pennsylvania Educator 500. She serves on the steering committee for the 2009 NAEP literacy frameworks, setting the new trend line for our Nation’s Report Card, and has been deeply involved in national efforts to promote standards and accountability.
ARC has over 200 full-time employees and more than 30 per diem consultants committed to the mission that inspired Jane Hileman’s initial challenge to that first group of second graders in 1995: to have every student in the United States of America reading on or above grade. All aspects of their work are informed by the core value that strength lies in diversity. ARC has an 11 acre campus with an inventory of $4 million in multi-cultural tradebooks, a state-of-the art library design software tool, and a proprietary book database with 115,000 titles evaluated, ranked, leveled, and organized into over 200 content area collections. ARC is a multi-cultural, mission-driven company, practicing the same continuous improvement model at work that we teach schools. ARC delivers what it promises, on time, and beyond our clients’ expectations.