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[Grade-level reading] Coalition launches citywide READ! By 4th campaign

Tuesday, August 12, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Amy Seasholtz
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CONTACT: Anthony Hopkins
215-563-5848 x23 (w) or 484-433-7490 (c)

READ! By 4
th Launches Six Year Effort to Double Share of Students Who Can Read at Grade Level by 4th Grade

Fifty of the City’s Most Respected Commit to Campaign’s Goal,
Founding Corporate Sponsors Make Generous Commitments


PHILADELPHIA (August 12th, 2014) - Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the Urban Affairs Coalition launched the “READ! By 4th” Campaign at the McVeigh Recreation Center in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. The Campaign will mobilize and focus the work of fifty organizations, public and private, large and small, that have agreed to make early literacy a priority. This citywide effort to boost the share of students entering 4th grade, reading at grade level enables Philadelphia to join 150 other cities and towns in 39 states that are part of the national effort, “Grade Level Reading by Third,” led by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and supported some the nation’s largest companies and private foundations.

Slightly more than half of all students attending Philadelphia traditional and charter public schools enter fourth grade reading below grade level. Research shows that reading proficiency by fourth grade is an important predictor of high school and career success. Of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of third grade, 74% struggle in later grades and are four-to-six times more likely to drop out of high school without earning a diploma.

For this reason, 50 of Philadelphia’s most respected public and private organizations have worked together for the last six months to craft a detailed Philadelphia strategy aimed at annually increasing the share of students reading at grade level by the time they enter fourth grade, with the goal of doubling the students prepared for 4th grade work by 2020. To hit that benchmark means that 95 percent of all students will be on grade level by the beginning of the next decade.

National research indicates that to boost the share of students ready for 4th grade, public policy, resources and organizational activities must address the following five challenges:

1. Improve the quality of early learning and child care programs

2. Give parents training and tools to help their child develop strong reading skills

3. Ensure that students continue to read over the summer break to mitigate reading skill loss

4. Address child health and other factors contributing to school absenteeism

5. Implement research-proven reading practices in schools in ways that ensure that instruction is individualized and promotes reading progression throughout the school year

In line with this national research, the 50 supporting organizations have agreed to focus on one or more of the five key components of early literacy work.

To officially launch the Campaign, two corporate partners stepped forward in a big way. Wells Fargo Bank is the Campaign’s Founding Corporate Sponsor. Wells Fargo will be making substantial new donations to some of the 50 Campaign supporting organizations to enable them to expand their work as well as providing funds for some of the Campaign’s communications activities aimed at motivating students to develop strong reading skills.

Greg Redden, Regional President of Wells Fargo Bank said, “It’s pretty clear that Philadelphia’s future is tied to the success of its children. Wells Fargo has been supporting early literacy work for years. Now with READ! By 4th, our contributions are aligned in a smart strategy that we have great hopes will succeed in achieving the goal of doubling the share of students reading at grade level when they enter 4th grade. This is exactly the kind of citywide, public-private approach we need to prepare our children for a lifetime of success, that’s why we are so proud to be the Founding Corporate Sponsor of this Campaign.”

Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, which operates six radio stations in Philadelphia, signed up to be the Founding Media Sponsor of the Campaign. Clear Channel’s Philadelphia radio stations are among the most highly listened to by adults in the age range likely to be young parents raising their children in Philadelphia.

Loraine Ballard Morrill, Director of News and Community Affairs for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment Philadelphia, spoke to the station’s commitment to READ! By 4th by saying “We were involved in the planning for the Campaign from day one. We know that we can reach so many young parents in Philadelphia who are looking for help to make sure their children are good students. We are thrilled to be able to use the platform provided by our six radio stations and high profile D.J.’s to talk with parents about the many simple, but very important, ways they can help their child develop strong early literacy skills. We will make this our priority of public affairs and do all we can to make this Campaign achieve its goals, hopefully long before 2020.”

Deputy Mayor Michael DiBerardinis highlighted the innovations already spawned by the Campaign, “We take the challenge of this Campaign very seriously. For the first time ever, twenty of the City’s summer recreation camps added fun early literacy activities to our daily schedule for camps serving children under nine years old. The counselors were great and the children loved it. We look forward to expanding this early literacy work throughout the entire recreation system because we know that good students, helping develop the minds, bodies and confidence of the City’s children is really what our recreation system is all about.”

School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite pointed to the importance of the campaign’s work on the lives of Philadelphia students. “Improving academic performance and graduation rates in our schools starts with the basics,” Hite said. “This campaign is exactly what we need to get our children reading at grade level and laying the foundation needed for success throughout their academic career.”

Debra Kahn, Executive Director, Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia pointed out, “Philanthropy in this region has a strong interest in the work of this Campaign. As part of an effort we call Sparking Solutions, funders identified areas where more focus, coordination and resources are needed to substantially improve the quality of life in our city and region, and having children acquire reading skills by 4th grade ranked near the top of the list. We look forward to helping this Campaign succeed.”

The Campaign is currently soliciting funds and new private and public partners and organizations to run the key elements of implementing the six year Philadelphia strategy. Sharmain Matlock Turner, CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition, explained, “As of today the Campaign is looking for an organization to step forward and carry the ball for the next six years. The Urban Affairs Coalition and Public Citizens for Children and Youth got the ball rolling and we will continue to raise funds and bring new partners to this work.”

Organizations wishing to play a leading implementation role or organizations that want to lead the summer reading boost or parent education activities are invited to submit a Letter of Interest to the Campaign Steering Committee. The Committee will announce the organizations selected to lead these efforts by the end of September.

Donna Cooper, Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth stressed that, “The shear scale of our challenge is daunting. Obviously the school district and charters must help teachers do a better job helping children who are struggling with reading. But the schools need partners if the city is going to hit the target. This Campaign is going to mobilize and focus those partners and hopefully, together with parents, we will achieve our goal of ensuring every child enters fourth grade with the reading they need for a lifetime of success.”