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September 19, 2018

Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Welcomes Charlotte County

CHARLOTTE COUNTY — The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has officially welcomed Charlotte County into its regional effort to boost child literacy rates, according to a press release issued by the campaign Tuesday.

Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign, said Charlotte’s community leaders have long demonstrated a commitment to tackling the issue.

“While Charlotte County may be new to the Suncoast Campaign on paper, it is no stranger to the importance of third-grade reading proficiency and has been hard at work connecting children and their families with solutions that move the needle on this crucial milestone,” Duda said.

The United Way of Charlotte County, United Way Suncoast in Manatee County, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County serve as the lead partners for the Suncoast Campaign’s efforts. The Patterson Foundation provides strategic resources and support.

“With our mission to eliminate poverty in Charlotte County, we bring people, resources, and organizations together to accomplish more than any of us can do as individuals,” said Angie Matthiessen, executive director of United Way of Charlotte County. “Our partnership with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading embodies this approach, maximizing efforts supporting our community’s children today and in the future.”

Efforts to bring Charlotte into the Suncoast Campaign have been underway for several months, and earlier this summer the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading approved Charlotte’s Community Solutions Action Plan, a blueprint that outlines the community’s needs and proposed solutions.

According to state Department of Education data, 63 percent of third-grade students in Charlotte County were tested as reading on grade level in the 2017–18 school year, compared to 68 percent in Sarasota, 49 percent in Manatee and just 29 percent in DeSoto. The Charlotte campaign will work to improve scores by providing school readiness programs, boosting daily attendance, and increasing summer learning opportunities. Several programs in Sarasota and Manatee are aimed at similar initiatives, including Sarasota’s Summer Learning Academies, the Suncoast Campaign’s Summer Book Challenge, and Manatee County School District’s Graduation Enhancement Technician program.

Researchers and educators increasingly see Third-grade reading scores as powerful indicators of a child’s future success, but improving scores can be slow work, as many of the programs work with children and their families years before students take the test. Last year third-grade reading scores slipped by three percentage points in Sarasota and one percentage point in Manatee.

Charlotte County leaders have worked with the Suncoast Campaign on other projects. Over the summer, leaders assembled and distributed 1,100 kindergarten readiness bags, which are filled with educational tools for families with young children about to enter kindergarten.

Duda said Charlotte’s membership will mean greater opportunities for the community, especially as the movement picks up momentum nationally. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has efforts underway in more than 390 communities in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“By joining this community-wide effort, Charlotte County has the opportunity to tap into learning from the work underway elsewhere in the region and hundreds of communities throughout the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s network,” Duda said.

This story comes from a partnership between the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Herald-Tribune, funded by The Patterson Foundation, to cover school readiness, attendance, summer learning, healthy readers and parent engagement. Read more stories at

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