Engineering Better Readers

By Maraliese Beveridge
Hanifa Johnson, local champion for Engineering Better Readers program with Richard Maser CEO & President of Maser Consulting P.A.  program sponsor.

Hanifa Johnson, local champion for Engineering Better Readers program with Richard Maser CEO & President of Maser Consulting P.A. program sponsor.

Engineering touches almost every aspect of our lives. Driving down a smoothly paved highway, turning on your faucet for a glass of water, or flicking on a light switch. When it’s working right—you don’t even notice it. As National Engineering Week comes to a close, we commend engineers throughout the nation who helped raise awareness for the profession by promoting the importance of getting involved.

Throughout their careers, some engineers emerge as leaders. Hanifa Johnson, a senior project engineer at Maser Consulting and graduate of New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), is one of them. Born and raised in Newark, NJ she didn’t have as many opportunities to expand her educational horizons but she learned the importance of early educational intervention on young minds. For the past five years, Hanifa has made a commitment to give back to her community as the local champion for Engineering Better Readers, a pilot program designed to incentivize elementary-school students to read more and to propel participating engineers into leadership roles in their respective communities. Partnering with the Engineer Leadership Foundation, Maser Consulting and the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Hanifa has helped introduce this program to the pre-K through 3rd grade students at the Camden Street Elementary School in Newark.

According to Engineer Leadership Foundation President Gerald J. Salontai, P.E., “Studies show that kids who do not master reading skills by the third grade have learning difficulties later and are far more likely to drop out before high-school graduation. Nothing much can be accomplished in any field – including engineering – without knowing how to read. This is a serious national problem that, despite so many well-intentioned efforts, is getting worse. America now faces too much international competition for us to treat this issue as anything other than one of our highest priorities. This program is a great start in the right direction.”

Currently implemented in Newark, NJ, Denver, CO, Houston, TX and Briceville, TN the program invites practicing engineers to promote better readers through the donation of their time, mentoring and other incentives. Students are motivated by activities that engage them to read independently in order to earn points. These points can be used to purchase toys, games and other merchandise from the school store, encouraging them to read more.

“Until I went to NJIT, I had never met an architect or an engineer. There aren’t any in my family and they are definitely scarce in the inner city.” said Hanifa during the recent presentation held at the Camden Street School. “Engineers solve problems and reading is a fundamental part of the problem solving process; one that needs to be instilled in all students at a young age.”

For more information about the Engineering Better Readers program and the Engineers Leadership Foundation, visit or contact the organization at or 301/588-6650.

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