In 1996, President Clinton launched legislation that would provide additional work-study money to colleges and universities with the condition that a large portion of it go to one on one literacy programs for children grades K-6.
The Joint Educational Project (JEP) at the University of Southern California saw this as an opportunity to encourage university students to participate in service learning and improve the reading skills of children in the community. The JEP version of America Reads was the first in the nation to begin working under these guidelines, launching on May 19, 1997.
This program was made possible by the collaboration of the USC Financial Aid Office, the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Joint Educational Project, and the Family of Schools. Moreover, a USC Neighborhood Outreach Grant allowed USC Readers to begin in May despite the fact that federal funding was not available until July.
Sixty "Readers" worked with the pilot program at four local schools--Foshay, Norwood, Vermont, and Weemes. Readers contributed more than 15,000 hours of tutoring assistance. Today, the USC ReadersPlus program has expanded into 32nd Street Magnet School and is staffed by one hundred USC Readers, eight student program coordinators, four graduate/undergraduate student office staff, and one full time program director.
In May of 1999, federal work-study guidelines were extended to include math education through America Counts. It was at this time that the USC Readers program name was changed to USC ReadersPlus.