Early Grade Literacy: Our Case for Action

An article featured in the October issue of Redbook Magazine’s Be Part of the Solution flags a startling national statistic…that nearly 40 percent of fourth graders in America read below grade level and 61 percent of low income families don’t have a single children’s book at home.  The United Way of the Lowcountry wants to train a spotlight on early grade literacy, where a quiet crisis is brewing. Children need to read to learn, to understand the world, and to succeed in school, work and life.  According to the National Institute for Literacy from kindergarten through third grade, successful readers learn the skills that enable them to understand and find meaning in written text. Children are learning to read in the early elementary years; by fourth grade they should be reading to learn. Unfortunately, students who are not strong readers by fourth grade are at risk of education failure. They are more likely to fail courses, disengage and eventually drop out of school.  Evidence and research show that providing readers with the extra assistance they need through tutoring is one strategy that works.   Locally the Born to Read program develops and produces materials spanning the first 15 months of a baby’s life, giving new parents the tools to engage in daily reading with their child. The Boys and Girls Club of the Lowcountry delivers high-yield learning programs by offering tutoring and access to a reading room in after school, intercession and summer programs that bolster a young person’s reading skills.  The educational outreach by the Neighborhood Outreach Connection through workshops and classes makes great strides in improving academic achievement. The Penn Center’s after school programs provide an opportunity to build a young person toward competency in school readiness.  Thumbs Up  knows that utilizing mentors leads to good character development and aids in learning as well as in developing social skills.  Thus, each of these United Way Partner Agencies seeks to inspire young people to read by getting books into the hands of children; engaging families in reading at home; enlisting volunteer tutors; and elevating reading in the time outside school (80% of a child’s waking hours).  To boost literacy in our community it takes a village of individuals~youth, young adults, parents, human service and government agencies, faith and business leaders~partnered with the United Way of the Lowcountry and the Beaufort and Jasper County School districts to make the greatest difference in literacy today.

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