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August 20, 2018

Seemingly Simple on the Surface: Part I

“The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a four-county effort in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties to help all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade.”

The 42-word statement above gives a simple, general description of the work of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR).  However, that simple statement encompasses multi-faceted issues, many of them complex and difficult to explain in a single statement.

A little more than two years ago, it was these complexities that led The Patterson Foundation to embark on a partnership with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune to inform our community about all aspects of SCGLR. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a movement.  The Patterson Foundation provides regional support to work led by United Way of Charlotte County, United Way Suncoast in Manatee County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and a coalition of community leaders in DeSoto County. In each county, the movement consists of five sectors: individuals, government, businesses, nonprofits, and the media, all playing a critical role in ensuring the long-term sustainable success of our children.

We were faced with difficult questions. How can we educate all five sectors on the issues and obstacles that effect a child’s ability to read? How can we improve the trajectory of our children? How can we strengthen our community as a whole?

We knew we would need to be able to explore and explain the root causes of a high number of children from low-income families being unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade.  We also understood that, to see progress, we would need to have the community recognize the depth of the issues affecting our children and to feel like a part of the solutions. In short, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for Solutions Journalism.

Solutions Journalism is evidence-based reporting on social problems which identifies the root causes, responses, and outcomes. Stories often feature insight into how complex systems work and how they can be improved.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is part of a network of 390 communities across the United States committed to improving third-grade reading scores by focusing on five pillars:  School Readiness, Attendance, Summer Learning, Parent and Family Engagement, and Health Determinants.  Each one of these areas has sub-categories, and each has a role in the ultimate achievement we wish for our children.  The Solutions Journalism partnership with the Herald-Tribune has resulted in more than 100 articles written in just over two years, each article shedding light on an aspect of one of the pillars of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.  The stories revealed local successes and challenges and highlighted state and national issues from policies to programming to community realities. Research and reporting by Ryan McKinnon, Yadira Lopez, and Kim Doleatto have sparked thought, conversation, and action throughout not only our region but in other Grade-Level Reading communities across the country.

We look forward to continuing this important partnership and to more articles that enlighten the path to our children’s success.

Sample articles from the partnership:

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