Research shows that when children fail to achieve reading proficiency by third grade, they are more likely to drop out of school and face an array of long-term negative consequences. Unfortunately, in DeSoto County, only 31 percent of students are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade.
To raise awareness about the importance of grade-level reading and efforts to build a better future for children, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading will host a Lunch and Learn session at South Florida State College: DeSoto Campus Thursday, Feb. 8 at noon. The session will provide an opportunity for education and community leaders in DeSoto County to come together and start the discussion about joining the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network.
As DeSoto County gauges community support and explores the opportunity to join the nationwide network of more than 360 GLR communities, Ashley Coone will work as a consultant for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. As president of ASC Consulting & Marketing and co-founder of Links2Success, a nonprofit that provides college and career readiness programming to students, Coone has years of experience working with the community. She was born and raised in DeSoto County and has served as DeSoto County Clerk of the Circuit Court, as well as on the Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Heartland. She currently serves on the board of the Smith Brown Community Foundation where she spearheads a capital project to renovate a facility for after-school programs for DeSoto County youth.
“I’m excited that the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is exploring the possibility of expanding into DeSoto County,” said Ashley Coone, consultant for The Patterson Foundation on the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “I’m passionate about helping students of all ages succeed by giving them hope for the future and the tools they need to learn and grow. The Campaign is a great opportunity to reach and help students throughout DeSoto County.”
One of the key solution areas of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is school readiness. By the time they start kindergarten, children from low-income homes are already 12-14 months behind their peers in language and reading skills. Making sure children enter kindergarten ready to learn puts them on a path to succeed.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, through funding from The Patterson Foundation and the School District of DeSoto County, will create and distribute 408 Kindergarten Readiness bags in DeSoto County. Each Kindergarten Readiness bag will contain learning tools, including a picture book, flash cards and alphabet letters, along with a Kindergarten Readiness parent guide explaining how to use the tools to practice important school-readiness skills.
“Research tells us that academic achievement increases when parents are engaged in their children’s education,” said Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for The Patterson Foundation. “The Kindergarten Readiness bags include many great tools parents and children can share together. By using the resources provided in the bags, parents can create fun learning experiences for their children and help prepare them for school.”
Currently, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading includes Sarasota and Manatee counties, with Charlotte County also exploring the possibility of joining.