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February 5, 2019

Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Welcomes DeSoto County

Strengthening its mission and expanding its presence across our region, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has expanded to DeSoto County. Through the Campaign, DeSoto joins a movement of more than 300 communities in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Canada that are committed to closing achievement gaps, ending intergenerational poverty, and reducing high school dropout rates by ensuring that children can read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Part of the nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the Suncoast Campaign is a communitywide effort in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties to ensure that all children, especially children from low-income families, are proficient readers by the time they finish third grade — a key indicator in a student’s future academic success. The Campaign involves collaborative efforts from foundations, nonprofit partners, government agencies, states and communities nationwide, in addition to business leaders.

“The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is thrilled to welcome DeSoto County to this crucial movement for our community’s future scholars and citizens,” said Beth Duda, director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for The Patterson Foundation. “DeSoto’s membership in the nationwide Network will strengthen the ongoing efforts for its children and our region as a whole.”

According to the Florida State Assessment from 2018, 29 percent of students in DeSoto County can read on grade-level when leaving third grade. Through the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, DeSoto County will work to increase third-grade reading proficiency by focusing on three key solution areas proven to impact a child’s reading ability: school-readiness, attendance and summer learning.

As a part of the Grade-Level Reading Network, DeSoto County will have access to tools like the GLR Learning for Impact and Improvement Learning System — designed to enhance collective efforts of the communities engaged in the GLR Network, as well as support from experts and policymakers, focused on early literacy.

“We welcome the newest members of our growing GLR Network of communities and to see momentum continuing to build,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “The commitment of local and state philanthropy to this vital mission comes at a critical time when too many children are falling beyond the reach of schools. We need systems that can assure 24/7/365, two-generation supports and interventions. By taking up this challenge, each of these communities commits to do more, to do better, and to make a difference in assuring more hopeful futures for the next generation.”

DeSoto joins the Suncoast Campaign after months spent developing and submitting its Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP), a framework that highlights the community’s needs and includes a strategy for success. DeSoto developed its CSAP with the help of the DeSoto County Education Foundation, DeSoto County Health Department, the School District of DeSoto County, the Early Learning Coalition of Florida’s Heartland, United Way Suncoast, and The Patterson Foundation.

DeSoto County collaborated with the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading before officially joining. In 2018, DeSoto County participated in the Suncoast Campaign’s Summer Reading Challenge to offset the “summer slide,” when students lose on average more than two months in reading achievement when they’re not in school. Through their participation, more than 5,369 students in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties read a total of 126,787 books during the summer months.

To learn more about the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, visit and follow the movement on social media using #GLReading. To learn more about the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, visit

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