In 2013, a National Assessment of Educational Progress report rocked Charlotte with this startling statistic: only 40 percent of Charlotte’s students were reading proficiently by the end of third grade, a critical predictor of school, career and life success.
For the African American community, the news was even more troubling: only 19 percent of black boys and only 30 percent of black girls were reading at grade level.
Community leaders moved swiftly in early 2014 to address the crisis, vowing to double third-grade reading outcomes by 2025. In 2015, Read Charlotte was formed to lead the effort, and today, it is urging the entire community to “Commit to 80.”
The “Commit to 80” campaign targets families, caregivers, volunteers in schools, professionals at work, as well as various community and faith-based groups in an effort to increase engagement and improve early language and literacy outcomes.
96% of students will graduate on time if reading proficiently by third grade
“This is something we can do. We can be the first major city in the United States of America to have a majority of its third-graders reading proficiently,” said Munro Richardson, Executive Director of Read Charlotte.
“Everybody has a part to play,” he said, adding that the black church can play a vital role in helping African American children achieve literacy goals.
To participate: On March 7-21, sign up for one or more ways to get involved throughout the year at CommitTo80.org. Participants may also sign up by calling 980-819-1431.
Ways to get engaged
“Commit to 80” aggregates more than a dozen proven and promising ways that individuals, families, businesses and civic organizations can help Charlotte-Mecklenburg reach its literacy goal by 2025. Here’s a sampling:
• Active Reading Workshops, offered at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branches, teach parents and caregivers the power of reading with their children rather than reading to them. The simplest way to improve reading proficiency is by reading with a child, which helps build vocabulary, language, and comprehension skills, Richardson said.
• Ready4K uses text messaging to help parents and caregivers build children’s skills by maximizing family routines in fun and easy ways. Learn how a trip to the grocery store can be a learning opportunity for your child. Available in English and Spanish, it’s free for families in Mecklenburg County.
• Reach Out and Read is integrated into routine well-child visits at participating medical clinics. During the visit, clinic staff model reading a book aloud to the child. Each child is given a new book to take home. The program is currently in 13 clinics. The goal is to expand to 35 clinics over the next three years.
• Tutor Charlotte is a new effort aimed at providing a countywide system of high-quality tutoring for students in K-3 grades. The goal is to make it easier to recruit, train and match tutors with kids who need help.
• Organize a book drive: Businesses and organizations can organize book drives to provide children’s books to schools or organizations such as Promising Pages, which provides more than 100,000 free books annually to kids in Charlotte.
Vital role for the black church
Read Charlotte is seeing an incredible alignment of interest and a sense of urgency from the nonprofit sector, faith community and school district, Richardson said, citing the YMCA’s efforts to promote active reading and The West Charlotte Coalition’s focus on reading proficiency for K-3 students, among others.
The black church could play a vital role, fundamentally changing the trajectory of literacy in Charlotte and especially for the black community, said Richardson.
Black churches historically have played a leading role in civil rights, and “this is the civil rights issue of our time,” he said.
“Not all children have a fair chance at learning to read. If we want to create more opportunity, we have to give kids more of a fair chance.”
A child is 4 times more likely to drop out IF NOT reading proficiently by third grade.
A great place to start leveling the playing field for black kids: Making sure that every child enters kindergarten knowing their ABCs, how to write their names, how to write uppercase and lowercase letters, and the sounds letters make.
“Literacy is a choice,” said Richardson. “We make choices everyday that impact whether children are able to read well or not. The system is perfectly aligned to get the results we’re achieving now. If we want different results for our children, we have to take different actions.”
Spread the news
“It will take an army of dedicated people ‘committing to 80’ with us,” Richardson said. To spread the news in your home, office or organization, go to CommitTo80.org for more information.
About Read Charlotte
Read Charlotte is a collaborative, community-wide initiative to double the percentage of third-grade students reading at grade level from 39% in 2015 to 80% by 2025. Housed under the Foundation For The Carolinas, Read Charlotte builds collaborative partnerships and provides resources on proven practices and/or programs. For more information, visit www.readcharlotte.org.