PHOENIX – Phoenix basketball legends Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor read to nearly 1,600 Cartwright School District third graders on Thursday to tip off Read to the Final Four, a contest that uses the excitement of the 2024 Men’s Final Four to inspire Arizona third graders to accelerate their reading skills and increase academic achievement.

“It’s wonderful to see college basketball provide the spark for children to get excited about reading,” said Taurasi, who played in four Women’s Final Fours and won three national championships at UConn. “The students had so much energy today, and I know they’ll bring the same energy to this fun competition. Good luck to all the schools competing in Read to the Final Four.”

The competition will be based on average time spent reading by third grade students. Read to the Final Four mimics the March Madness brackets, with schools advancing to further levels of competition based on the average number of minutes read. The first phase of competition, the Qualifying Challenge, takes place this fall. The top 68 schools will be invited to participate in the Challenge Bracket in January.

The Final Four schools with the highest average number of minutes read will be announced the week of March 4, 2024; all four will be celebrated and a champion announced on Friday, April 5, 2024. The Read to the Final Four champion school will receive a $5,000 cash prize to support reading, literacy or library programs.

Schools are encouraged to register to participate in the Qualifying Challenge portion of the competition. For key Read to the Final Four dates, please visit

Read to the Final Four is a partnership of the 2024 Men’s Final Four Host Committee, the NCAA and Helios Education Foundation. The 2024 Men’s Final Four is set for April 6 and 8, 2024 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale.

“Read to the Final Four is pivotal to our mission to leave a positive legacy in Arizona long after the Final Four is over,” said Jay Parry, CEO of the 2024 Men’s Final Four Host Committee. “With Diana Taurasi and Penny Taylor reading to a packed house of 1,500 students today, the rally was an inspiring experience for Cartwright School District students. We’re grateful to the NCAA and Helios Education Foundation for their strong support of this important initiative.”

“Read to the Final Four is important to the NCAA because we are about education,” said JoAn Scott, NCAA Managing Director, Men’s Basketball Championships. “We’re delighted that students across Arizona can participate in a competition that will inspire them to develop a love for reading that will last a lifetime.”

“Third grade is a crucial year for students’ reading proficiency,” said Dr. LeeAnn Aguilar-Lawlor, Superintendent of Cartwright School District. “That’s why Cartwright School District is grateful to the Phoenix Local Organizing Committee, NCAA and Helios Education Foundation for providing our scholars a fun and entertaining way to raise their reading game.”

“We are proud to support the Read to the Final Four literacy challenge,” said Jane Roig, Vice Chair of Helios Education Foundation’s Board of Directors. “We hope this will inspire and incentive thousands of third graders across Arizona to improve their reading abilities and ultimately become proficient readers.”