Editor’s Note: This article was written by Cassandra Decker and was originally published by the Manatee Community Foundation.
Conversation buzzed throughout the room, like electricity linking one person to another, as attendees connected around the community-driven, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Donors, campaign leads, practitioners, and passionaries convened April 4, 2019 at the Manatee Community Foundation for a Donor Update centered on impacts made through three initiatives: Reach Out & Read, Dive Into Reading, and Soar in 4.
United Way Suncoast is the lead partner on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Manatee County. Its support and design of the community-wide effort swelled from an early understanding of the achievement gap.
The sobering statistics around grade-level reading continue to drive these efforts in Manatee County. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “A student who is not reading proficiently by third grade is four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19 than a child who is reading proficiently by third grade.” Moreover, the American Educational Research Foundation explains the intersectionality of poverty and literacy noting that “Students who are both not reading proficiently by third grade and living in poverty are 13 times less likely to graduate from high school on time.” Community members such as Steve Roskamp, who funds Soar in 4, called these statistics “unacceptable” saying quite simply that they were “not ok” with such a future for our children and families. Below are three initiatives where community is “fighting back” against these statistics.
A nationally recognized and data-driven program, Reach Out and Read shows the impact that pediatricians (doctors and nurses) as trusted caregivers drive when connecting to children ages 0-5 years. Pediatricians use visits as an opportunity to offer guidance about reading aloud and provide a book to read. Nationally, parents are 2.5 times more likely to read to their children more than three times a week, and families are 2.5 times more likely to enjoy reading together when they have books in the home. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading shows an increase of 44% of families reading with their child daily in 2017 to 57% of families reading with their child daily in 2018. In 2019, 17,000 children from birth to five will participate in Reach Out and Read by connecting with 11 clinics and 34 trusted local providers. Special thanks to The Patterson Foundation for bringing this national program to Manatee County and supporting it with such dedication.
A mighty collaboration among the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Manatee County School District, Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading, and Manatee County Libraries, Dive Into Reading has for two years served rising 2nd and 3rd grade students from all 15 Title 1 schools attending Camp R.I.S.E. — a summer school camp for struggling readers. Students attend three locations, one day a week throughout June. They enjoy social and emotional learning over a hot breakfast and connect one-on-one with a mentor, reading grade-appropriate books based on individualized curriculum, which they then take home to build their own library. Dive Into Reading expanded from 76 children and 52 mentors in 2017 to 366 children and 254 mentors in 2018. Children either did not experience summer slide (loss of learning over summer months) or they experienced gains thanks to Dive Into Reading, which plans to expand to 450 children for summer 2019.
Soar in 4 is driven by Manatee County School District and Carolyn and Steve Roskamp and serves six high-need school zones with plans to cover all Manatee County’s Title 1 elementary schools by 2022. Its mission is to ensure children from families of all races, ethnicities, incomes, abilities, and languages have the opportunities and support they need for success in school and beyond. And to create a network of parents, community organizations, and neighborhood businesses that plan and carry out activities and opportunities that support young children’s health, growth, development, and school readiness. The statistics around Soar in 4 show undeniable progress:
Soar in 4 is funded by community members Carolyn and Steve Roskamp. It is through their generous support that Soar in 4 expanded from 1 neighborhood in 2016-2017 serving 27 to now 6 neighborhoods in 2018-2019 serving 730.
It is due to such data-driven approaches that the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is able to offer tangible roles to community members to help ensure that our children are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade. Both financial and human resources are required to pave a positive outcome for this community; one person does make a difference and an entire community drives life-long change. Below are four different ways you can support the results necessary to help our children and families:
Please contact Jennifer Abbott, Director of Philanthropy, at JAbbott@ManateeCF.org with any questions about how you can support these initiatives.