a younger woman in a gray dress with tightly curly brown hair looks intently at a laptop screen, facing us, while an older man with a black leather hat and blue plaid shirt gestures at the computer with his finger. they are seated at the left end of a light gray conference table which has other pens, post-its, an iPad and a coffee cup on it.
Sustaining the impact of an effective literacy program
with Reading in Motion

Reading In Motion is an established nonprofit with the goal of getting every student to read at or above grade level during their first years of school.


Chicago, IL

Topic Areas

Youth Development

Project Types

Capacity Building
Programs & Services

Literacy is life-changing, and Reading in Motion’s innovative curriculum has been proven to have immediate impact on student reading. But the organization had important questions about the sustainability of its impact. What happens after a teacher works with Reading in Motion? And how can we ensure that every RIM teacher continues to transform their students, year after year?

We worked with RIM to understand and define a strategy around impact sustainability. In the process, we observed nearly every facet of this 30+-year-old program, created sustainability principles for leadership, coaches, teachers and staff, designed and delivered a set of digital tools, and taught the organization how to create shorter learning cycles through the practice of prototyping.

Project Outputs


Our overall strategic recommendation was for Reading in Motion to move from a program focused on student transformation, to one focused on teacher transformation. Accompanying this were a set of six sustainability principles, each with its own set of insights and opportunities for design.


We designed a digital platform, called My Reading In Motion, that enables teachers to better fit the program into their school day, and continue implementing it with or without a coach’s support. It’s been so successful that the organization has stopped printing its physical book. Teachers can now access the curriculum whenever they need it, and can target interventions for at-risk students with much more precision.


Our work together helped Reading in Motion to reimagine its programming through the eyes of its end users—teachers. RIM staff created programmatic elements such as a teacher-facing orientation video, a “quiet coaching” practice and a materials marketplace. They also prototyped and rolled out a new peer-coaching model, where teachers are trained by RIM coaches to lead the program within their school communities. That program, which began as a prototype, has now become an important part of the Reading in Motion offering.

Learning Experiences

We worked closely with stakeholders throughout Reading in Motion for almost two years, and created multiple learning experiences along the way – from formalized workshops and coaching sessions to end-user research training and immersion.

black-and-white headshot of a light-skinned woman with light brown medium-length hair, smiling, wearing a light-colored jacket and three strings of beads

I was going back over the concepts, and I was amazed at how many have taken hold.

Elizabeth Johnston Reading in Motion

Client & Community Outcomes


One of the first things to come out of this engagement was an internal alignment of the organization’s values. The new set of values has served to re-orient staff members towards what we believe, rather than simply what we do, and the values have shown up across the program’s communications, including website and teacher trainings.


In 2016, an outside study from 3D Group found that 12 teachers in two Chicago Public Schools were able to successfully transition into what the organization called “Sustainability Mode,” where coaching was provided by Peer Coaches rather than RIM coaches. The differences between the two modes were not statistically significant. As a result, the evaluators recommended transitioning more schools which met the criteria into Sustainability Mode. This early indicator shows that RIM may be able to not only sustain, but scale its programming to serve more students.


Our time together helped the Reading in Motion team to embrace the concept of prototyping. Whereas before they would pilot a new idea for an entire school year, then determine its success, now they are much more comfortable creating multiple versions, quickly and cheaply, then using them to gather feedback and move forward. With significantly shorter learning cycles, the organization has become more nimble, responsive and innovative.