Editor’s Note: Ashley Coone is a consultant for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading from DeSoto County.
On February 9, 2018, more than two-dozen community leaders and educators convened in DeSoto County to learn about the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR). SCGLR Director, Beth Duda, was on hand to provide an overview of the five pillars of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading:
She also highlighted the regional approach SCGLR is applying to the work. Beth certainly got the group’s attention when she shared that only 31% of DeSoto County students can read proficiently by the end of third grade. There was a sense of empowerment and duty in the room when she stated, “the success of our children is not just a school district issue, it is a community issue. It will take individuals, businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and the media — all working together — to make a difference for the children of DeSoto County.”
Duda began the session with introductions. Many attendees were currently working on strategies to improve the literacy rates in DeSoto County. Some attendees shared their work with programs that already fit in with the pillars of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Each attendee shared three words that described DeSoto County to them. Some of the words used to describe DeSoto County included small, close-knit, family oriented, rural, deeply rooted, and agricultural.
Penny Pringle, Assistant Administrator of the DeSoto County Health Department, shared that the Health Department currently participates in Reach Out and Read, which provides books to children during well-child pediatric examinations. There was a real sense of energy in the room as Duda explained the concepts SCGLR has been using in Manatee and Sarasota counties including common aspirations, shared measurements, aligned resources, and aligned strategies.
Duda spoke about DeSoto County “dipping their toes” in the SCLGR water by supporting school readiness with Kindergarten Readiness Bags. In 2016, The Patterson Foundation created Kindergarten Readiness Bags in response to a need the kindergarten teachers in Sarasota and Manatee counties had expressed: tools parents could use to help ready their children for the first day of Kindergarten.
Adrian Cline, Superintendent of DeSoto County Schools, reached out to The Patterson Foundation to express his interest in getting the bags for every incoming kindergartener in DeSoto County, and his interest in learning more about the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Duda also provided some data showing the success of SCLGR in Manatee and Sarasota counties including a 3% increase in both counties of children able to read proficiently by the end of third grade.
Throughout her presentation, there was no doubt that the attendees felt energized about the possibility of becoming a “Grade-Level Reading Community” and joining SCGLR. Those in the room understood that we would be able to accomplish far more by working together. The presentation gave a great sense of hope along with a strong direction to help the children of DeSoto County. Several of the attendees stayed after the event to learn more about the process of joining the Campaign. Their eagerness and excitement to get started was undeniable. If this initial meeting is any indication, the exploration to bring the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to DeSoto County is off to a strong start.