The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading marks the beginning of a communitywide vision — one shared by both Manatee and Sarasota counties — to improve the reading proficiency and overall success of young children in our area.
What’s at stake?
Nationwide, third-grade reading statistics paint a grim picture: 67 percent of all children and 80 percent of those from low-income families cannot read on grade level by the end of third grade, an indicator of long-term negative life consequences. From ideas and information to strategies and learning opportunities, organizations in Manatee and Sarasota counties are working to change that.
Part of the more than 168 communities in the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a communitywide effort in Manatee and Sarasota counties to help all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school and in life by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade.
“A communitywide vision makes sense for these neighboring counties that were both accepted to become part of the national campaign,” said Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, which supports both the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Suncoast Campaign. “While different approaches will be needed to tackle the unique challenges of each county, we know there will be opportunities for information sharing and boundary-spanning activities as they make sense for both counties to learn and share with each other.”
The national campaign emphasizes the importance of beginning to address challenges early in life – starting with quality parent/family engagement from birth — before children enter the classroom, and focuses on solutions in the following areas to achieve long-term success: school readiness/early learning, chronic absence, summer learning, healthy readers and parent/family engagement.
Local communities that are part of the national network adopt strategies in these areas to make a difference based on their unique demographic and geographic challenges. Several lead organizations have come forward to support the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and county-specific approaches in various ways.
These lead supporters include: the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Manatee Community Foundation, School District of Manatee County, School District of Sarasota County, The Patterson Foundation, United Way of Manatee County and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. In addition, there are dozens of nonprofits, schools, community organizations and individuals in both counties already doing meaningful work related to the Suncoast Campaign.
“The Community Foundation of Sarasota County brings a unique perspective and strength to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Sarasota County by focusing on a two-generation approach working with children and their parents living in the attendance zones for four Title 1 schools,” said Roxie Jerde, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “The School District and our nonprofit partners are connecting in new ways and creating new possibilities for both low-income students and their families for greater success in education and economic security.”
Both Manatee and Sarasota counties face the challenges of 60 percent and 57 percent respectively of students in pre-K through third grade who qualify for free and reduced lunch programs – an indicator of family economic instability that applies to nearly 17,000 students in the two-county region. There is much to gain from the entire community coming together to make a difference.
“Ensuring that all of our children have the opportunity to succeed in school and beyond is a community responsibility,” said Philip Brown, president of the United Way of Manatee County. “The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a vehicle for ensuring that we can mobilize all of our community’s resources, organizations, employers, public entities and individuals to be focused on the success of all of our children – both individually and collectively.”
To learn more about the campaign and progress being made in our local region, please visit gradelevelreadingsuncoast.net and: