When we think of the importance of reading, we may not immediately think of high school graduation. The fact is, 96% of kids who read well by 3rd grade will graduate high school. That sounds promising, right? But one in three American fourth graders score below “basic” in the nation’s only national assessment of reading. That means one in three fourth graders can barely read. Not good.
That’s why it’s heartening to hear about a new national network of communities pushing to increase reading proficiency by 3rd grade, as one strategy to help future generations get a good job. Some 58 – more than one-third – of the 124 communities in the new Grade-Level Reading Communities Network are being led or fueled by United Ways. Mayors, community foundations, libraries and literacy councils are also at the forefront. See the full list of communities here.
What’s exciting about this movement is that leaders and citizens from all walks of life are involved. In Roanoke, one of the communities named as an All-America city recently for its grade-level reading work, everyday people are part of the solution. People are volunteering as reading buddies in child care centers, or reading tutors for students through 3rd grade. Civic organizations like the Junior League are leading book drives, and people all over the community are stepping up to make sure disadvantaged children have books at school and at home. The United Way of Roanoke Valley is fueling the volunteerism efforts, as part of its focus on education work.
Want to volunteer as a reader for a kid in your community? Chances are there’s a struggling reader who could use your help. Check out the options at www.unitedway.org/volunteer.