Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters!
By Kabita Bagchi, Marketing Volunteer
Whether children will succeed in school, college, career and life… their reading proficiency by third grade is the key predictor….
Third grade is the crucial year when students make the leap from ‘learning to read’, decoding words, using their cognition of alphabets to ‘reading to learn’. For most students who struggle to reach this crucial milestone, their reading to learn progression hits a permanent setback. And the gap between struggling and strong readers increases with time, becoming intimidating to overcome the outcome in the years ahead. The ‘strugglers’ start to falter in later grades and are FOUR TIMES more likely1 to drop out of high school without a diploma.
However, children who are able to read at grade level by the end of third grade are more likely to succeed in school, graduate prepared for college, have a career, and have an active citizenship. There are nearly 1,400 third graders attending Waukegan schools. Currently, only 36% of these students can read at grade level vis-à-vis 55% of Illinois state students who are able to perform at grade level2.
It is clear that the ‘reading proficiency’ shortfall is especially alarming amongst at-risk children from vulnerable communities. This is because poverty has a direct impact on ‘school readiness’. Also, summer learning loss is more acute in low-income children, impacting their third grade reading proficiency when their reading and learning stops during those summer months. And it further increases the achievement gap with their peers.
To help eliminate the achievement gap for third grade reading between Waukegan schools and the state of Illinois, in October, 2013, Waukegan joined the national network of Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities to increase the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently at the end of third grade. Led by the United Way of Lake County, the Waukegan GLR Campaign is a part of a nationwide campaign – now operating in 167 communities — that are committed to increasing the number of children who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
The Waukegan GLR Campaign is in partnership with the Waukegan School District #60, Waukegan Park District, Waukegan Public Library, Kohl Children’s Museum, and others. Through community outreach, parent education and programs, the campaign focuses on low-income children, who statistically fall behind in academically. The program hones individual reading proficiency and school readiness, while working to deter summer learning loss and chronic absences.
Waukegan’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has been recognized for demonstrating real progress in helping kids and was recently announced as one of just 30 communities across the nation to be honored with a 2014 “Pacesetter” award by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. United Way of Lake County and the community partners will receive the 2014 National Pacesetter Award by Jill Riemer from the Smarter Learning Group Inc. at the Annual Community Celebration Event held at United Conveyor Corporation.
Commenting on the occasion, local Grade-Level Reading Lead, Michelle Mittler Crombie, said, “The Waukegan Campaign for Grade-Level Reading brought together many organizations and dedicated individuals with a shared desire to ensure children in our community are successful. With help of our community partners, several programs were enhanced, to improve academic development and outcomes for children. We are delighted to receive the award and plan to offer some exciting new Early Learning programming to build literacy skills and to ensure all students are able to read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade”.
The campaign has made measurable progress in summer learning. Reaching out to approximately 10,000 low-income children in a district of 17,000 students, the campaign has ensured children from low-income families in Waukegan to enter school with the skills they need, have fewer unexcused absences and increased summer learning opportunities.
“The Waukegan Grade-Level Reading Campaign is to be commended as a national leader in this critically important effort,” said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the GLR Campaign. “We’re recognizing the communities that can demonstrate they’re really making a measurable difference in the lives of our children.”
To help us advance the common good of ‘Reading proficiency by third grade’, click here www.LIVEUNITEDlakecounty.org/readingsuccess and get involved.
That’s what it means to LIVE UNITED.
- Data based on AECF Special Report – Early Warning: Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters – http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-EarlyWarningConfirmedExecSummary-2013.pdf
- Grade 3 – ISAT Performance By All-Reading-Illinoisreportcard.com –http://www.illinoisreportcard.com/District.aspx?source=Trends&source2=ISAT&Districtid=34049060026