Sophie Allen-Etchart

Q: What most notably stands out about your leadership style or what is an example of leadership success you can share with our readers?

I commit wholeheartedly to Carol Dworkin’s philosophy of the Growth Mindset. I fail regularly and make every effort to share my reflection and iteration with those around me. I endeavor to create a space in which others feel safe to do the same. Owning your failures means owning your success too, and this type of accountability encourages confidence in others.

What impact has COVID-19 or the disruptions of the past 18 months had on you as a leader?

It will not come as a surprise to many that I founded Read Better Be Better because I care deeply about, and passionately believe in people. I do this work because I know when resources are equally distributed, then all children will have the opportunities for self-actualization that my privilege has afforded me. Only then will we all thrive. 

As we emerge into a ‘post-pandemic’ world, so much of the trauma continues, particularly in the under-resourced communities with whom Read Be Better works, but instead of a broader narrative of grace and compassion, there is frustration and anger. 

Most importantly, we knew the children and families we exist to serve needed the critical programming Read Better Be Better provides more than ever, so, I came back to the program. Because of staff shortages (yes, we certainly had those, too), I had the opportunity to run Read Better Be Better’s program several times at different schools across our 10 Elementary School Districts. What an absolute joy it was to be back on campus and witness the unfailing resilience, grace, and boundless potential of children. And every time, it was both the emotional lift and the kick in the rear I needed to find new ways to meet the demands of the moment.

Because of a relentless commitment to excellence and kindness, Read Better Be Better provides the resources and fosters a safe space for children to make moments of magic by reading together. And so, we give ourselves a moment of grace and space to breathe. Then we lean on each other and grow stronger, knowing the need and the demand increase by the day. It certainly hasn’t been easy. And with renewed courage and commitment, we are daring greatly. 

The challenge has also been to support my team to stay healthy, happy, and motivated as they work through their own feelings and responses to this environment. 

While I certainly don’t have the answer, a commitment to inclusive decision-making has transformed our organization. We take more time for and with each other. And with our partners and stakeholders. This undoubtedly makes us stronger.

What do you feel we can be doing as a business community to empower economic growth here?

Economic growth will come when we adequately educate the next generation. 

My heartfelt plea is for those in the business community to make time to go into their local schools and seek to understand, without judgment, their strengths, and their challenges. Develop and foster productive partnerships to generate long-term educational and economic gains for Arizona communities. In doing this, I think the community can work together, in powerful solidarity, to achieve 3 principal goals:

  1. Create resource-rich public schools from which students graduate with the agency, passion, and skill set to successfully augment the local and state workforce.
  2. Increase the understanding of public schools as cornerstones of democracy and economic vitality within communities.
  3. Create sustainable, high-impact relationships between public schools and local businesses.

Also, businesses can consider flexing their business model to serve a marginalized population – looking beyond short-term profit to longer-term investments. Poverty is inextricably linked to education outcomes – when resources are equally distributed, we will ALL thrive.

What is new and notable for your company’s near future that will impact our economy?

We know that students who don’t read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade are 4x less likely to graduate high school. We know that, at present in Arizona, only 35% of students are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. If we don’t act immediately, this will devastate Arizona’s future economy.

Read Better Be Better is working with a funder to better understand our Total Addressable Market. With this information, we can expand our vision to include all students. 

Given that students who participate in Read Better Be Better continue to significantly outperform the 3rd grade average on standardized reading comprehension tests, that will have a discernable impact on the resilience, opportunity, and productivity of our whole community.

Name of Leader: Sophie Allen-Etchart
Position of Leader: Founder & CEO
Organization Name: Read Better Be Better
No. of Years with Organization: 8
Main Local Office Address:
4730 W. Campbell Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85031
Phone: (623) 404-6022
Website: readbetterbebetter.org
Number of offices in Greater Phoenix: 1 office, 67 program sites
Year Established Locally: 2014
City Nationally Headquartered: Phoenix


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