Rosa Higgs was born in Berkeley, CA, a fourth-generation native. Her maternal grandmother was an English teacher, her mother attended the University of California, Berkeley where she studied classical music; Ms. Higg's father co-authored the Fair Housing Act. Ms. Higgs has two children, Christina completed a two-year data fellowship at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard and holds an MBA in Finance and an MS in Actuarial Science, and her son Benjamen and his wife, Yelda, are both University of California Law School graduates. Ms. Higgs now boasts of an addition to her growing family, sixth-generation Berkeley native granddaughter, Ankara.
From the beginning of her teaching career at the Black Panther School and English Language Learning Program at the San Francisco Skills Center, Ms. Higgs worked to raise the quality of life through literacy for struggling readers. As a college undergraduate student in San Francisco, Ms. Higgs played a significant role in bringing the very first African American Studies Program to the United States and helped carry the program to her high school in Berkeley as well as Colleges, and Universities nationwide. From that point on optimism would be Ms. Higgs’ defining trait. She taught phonics to individuals in women's shelters; to children in juvenile custody; in public libraries; after school classes; after work classes for English Language learners; Statewide literacy programs; grandparents and recently released inmates. After all, what good is black studies if they can’t read!
While teaching a 7th grade Special Education class in Illinois, Ms. Higgs found to her dismay that not a single one of her 26 students could read near grade level. After telling her principal that her students cannot read she said: “Teach them and if you don't know how to teach, then learn.” And she did. As a result, her phonics curriculum was born - formerly known as “Higgs Phonics” and later renamed “Read in 40 Hours or Less”.
As co-chair for the literacy improvement program for County jails, Ms. Higgs discovered that most of the inmates could not read beyond 3rd grade. As a result, she looked into the middle schools and then the elementary schools, looking for the genesis of the black hole in language arts instruction. Ms. Higgs successfully helped thousands of students to read far and above the third-grade level. Some students went on to win local spelling bees while many more were placed in advanced grades and early high school graduation. Consequently, she received many awards for outstanding achievement with her phonics workbooks.
As her workbooks’ popularity spread to Haiti, brother-in-law, Congressman Ron Dellums, invited her to present to the United Nations after which she was named an honorary United Nations Literacy Ambassador. Dellums urged her to return to Berkeley, as their hometown had fallen from Number 1 nationally to Number 47 out of 50 in reading and math. Ms. Higgs answered the call and returned to Berkeley. She retired early from her professorship in English where Ms. Higgs taught remedial Language Arts Skills to students from over two dozen countries worldwide.
Ms. Higgs has now stepped up her efforts to pass on to the world her highly effective reading methods and workbooks because her mission is to cure the problem of multigenerational illiteracy in America.