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April 17, 2019

Donor Update: 3 Collaborative Grade-Level Reading Programs Getting Results

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.

Reach Out and Read

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.

Dive Into Reading

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

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:

  • 98% of Soar in 4 children demonstrated progress towards school readiness skills for their age as measured by the VPK assessment (AP1, AP2, AP3)
  • i-Ready diagnostic data in kindergarten reflects that students who participated in summer Soar in 4 started out six weeks ahead of their peers who did not participate
  • Soar in 4 students have more days present than their peers
  • 96% of parents/grandparents/guardians reported life skills improvement in relationships with family and friends, children, and knowledge of support resources; education and employment, health and medical care, and mental health/substance abuse

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:

  1. Make a tax-deductible gift to the Reach Out & Read Fund, Dive Into Reading Fund, or the Soar in 4 Fund of Manatee Community Foundation. A specific budget for each program, along with what is needed and how your gift will make an impact, will be provided. You can give through your donor advised fund, write a check payable to Manatee Community Foundation with the name of the fund in the memo line, make a gift of appreciated stock, etc.
  2. Get out and see these programs in action, and bring a friend. There is nothing like the visual and sensory experience of seeing these programs in action. Manatee Community Foundation can connect you with the right people to plan a site visit, and are happy to join you if you like.
  3.  Volunteer your time. Each program has conscientious leaders who know how important it is to appreciate volunteers, to provide a positive experience, and to provide the proper training to ensure gains. Manatee Community Foundation is happy to make the connection for you.
  4. Tell a friend. We all know people, and your friends listen to your recommendations. With so many kind people in Manatee County, we feel sure you have a colleague, family member or friend who wants to help.

Please contact Jennifer Abbott, Director of Philanthropy, at with any questions about how you can support these initiatives.

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