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The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (Campaign) is a nationwide joint-effort among cities, childcare and education advocates, human-service organizations, community leaders, and funders to ensure that,by 2020, the amount of third-grade students who read at grade-level has doubled.

Why is the end of third-grade identified as the critical juncture in a student’s academic career?

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CLASSROOM

Through ground-breaking research the Annie E. Casey Foundation discovered the likelihood of a student to graduate high school can be predicted by their ability to read at proper grade-level by the completion of third grade.

More studies revealed at least 80% of U.S. children do not read at an adequate level. Children from low-income communities experience more difficultly reading at grade-level than their more-resourced peers. Statistics indicate a school achievement gap between rich and poor students begins even before kindergarten. This discrepancy affects low-income children in several ways, such as losing between two to three months of reading achievement compared to wealthier peers each year. Communities mobilized throughout the United States as similar conclusions and research were shared.

Now more than 130 cities and communities participate in the Campaign, including Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s Role

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Philadelphia joined the Campaign in December 2013. Mayor Michael A. Nutter leads a new coalition determined, by 2020, to double the amount of School District of Philadelphia third-grade students who read at grade-level by their school year’s close.

Public Citizen’s for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition are spearheading a multi-year strategy that will focus on four specific policies:

  • High-quality early learning programs
  • Reduction of school absenteeism
  • Summer reading efforts
  • Alignment of instructional practices from pre-kindergarten to third grade

About 100 organizations support the coalition including: American Reading Company; Boys and Girls Club of Philadelphia; Eagles Youth Partnership; Free Library of Philadelphia; Lenfest Center; Department of Human Services; Department of Parks and Recreation; Philadelphia Reads; Rock to the Future; Salvation Army; and the YMCA.

The Barra Foundation donated $87,000 to plan the coalition’s six-year campaign.

Accomplishments

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Curbing Summer Slide with Free Books

While the committee will release its full strategy to enhance summer reading and city-wide learning opportunities later this year, progress abounds already.

In mid-June Mayor Nutter announced that more than 200,000 books will be given to the 51,200 students enrolled in the Philadelphia School District’s kindergarten through third-grade. The City’s Department of Human Services (DHS) purchased the books, allowing each student to receive four books.

This move will help the students combat summer reading loss, which occurs more frequently among children from low income communities who may not have the funds to purchase books or attend out of school programs during the summer. The books provided by DHS offer a significant step forward to prevent the loss of reading level during the summer, also known as “summer slide.”

Reaching for Increased Literacy Programming

The Department of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (PPR) program division will soon launch REACH, its new youth development system. Twenty-one PPR facilities will participate in the REACH pilot to test program effectiveness in three pilot objectives:

  • Intentional programming in the five “wellness areas” (environmental awareness, outdoor activities, sports and athletics, arts programming, and fitness and healthy habits)
  • Reduce the summer slide & infuse literacy programming
  • Train youth ages 16-18 to become junior literacy coaches

Specifically, PPR is partnering with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the Free Library of Philadelphia to offer literacy programming this summer. PPR will hire seasonal staff to offer engaging activities that reinforces the fun of reading and inspires children to develop a love of reading.

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