The Charlotte Observer – Read Charlotte

‘Read Charlotte’ wants to double the percentage of children reading proficiently

By Andrew Dunn - Posted Feb 03, 2015

A $5.5 million community-wide reading initiative unveiled Tuesday hopes to double the number of third-grade students reading on grade level over the next decade.

Known as Read Charlotte, the program will bring together some of the city’s largest companies and philanthropic organizations to steer money and services around the common goal.

They’ll recruit community members to brainstorm ideas on how to help children from birth to the school house. Then they’ll teach parents, teachers and day care centers about the best ways to support children as they learn to read.

By 2025, Read Charlotte hopes that more than 80 percent of third-graders will rank as proficient in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, up from 40 percent today.

“That kind of gain in this amount of time would be unheard of,” said Johanna Anderson, executive director of the Belk Foundation. “But a lot of research and interesting developments over the past few years ... show it can be done.”

The project has been in the works for about a year. Organizers have raised $4.6 million so far.

Their efforts coincide with a renewed focus on reading in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Newly installed Superintendent Ann Clark often describes literacy as the district’s “north star.” School board members got their first peek at Read Charlotte’s plans last week and voiced their support. CMS will donate some staff time to the project, and Clark will be on its governing board.

“For me, the alignment of the entire community around that ‘north star’ is thrilling,” Clark said. She said her recommended budget for the district this year will include a significant investment in literacy. Read Charlotte’s resources will be a good complement, she said, though the governing board hasn’t met to discuss specifics.

The project also comes as third-grade literacy is of particular importance. The North Carolina “ Read to Achieve” program, approved by the state legislature in 2012, aims for students to be at grade-level before being promoted to fourth grade. Third grade is commonly viewed as the year where children move from learning to read to using reading skills to learn in other subjects.

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