BALTIMORE, MD. (May 31, 2012) – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake congratulated city partners who developed a new strategy to improve reading skills for their plan being chosen as a finalist for the All-America City Award, sponsored each year by the National Civic League. Baltimore is one of 32 finalists from a field of more than 100 entries across the country. Winners will be announced July 2 in Denver, Colorado.
The ambitious plan to ensure that more Baltimore City children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade was submitted by the Baltimore Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a coalition that includes including the Family League of Baltimore City, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Mayor’s Office.
“Baltimore is committed to preparing all of our students to succeed,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “Community partners came together to develop a strategy that will give young people the reading skills they need to learn.”
Baltimore’s plan includes using home health visits for high-risk mothers as an opportunity to deliver early learning and reading messages. It also includes a new summer learning campaign (Baltimore City Super Summer) and an attendance initiative planned for this coming fall. Focusing on school readiness, attendance, and summer learning, Baltimore hopes to increase the number of students reading at grade-level by the end of the third grade from the current rate of about 40 percent to 80 percent or higher by 2020.
Baltimore’s plan makes it a charter member in a national movement of cities, nonprofits, and foundations putting a new focus on third-grade reading. Third-grade is the point when children shift from just learning to read, and begin using their reading skills to learn. Students who have yet to master reading by third-grade are more likely to struggle in later grades.
The 124 cities and counties involved in the Grade-Level Reading Community Network are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade. The plans involve schools but acknowledge that they alone cannot address the myriad problems that keep children from learning to read.
As a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network, Baltimore will have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers, and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.
“Launching the Baltimore Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was a catalyst to pull the right group of people together to focus on grade-level reading. Schools can’t do it alone, and we recognize that it will take a community effort to reach our goal of having every child reading at grade level by the end of third grade,” said Kevin Keegan, President and CEO of the Family League of Baltimore City. “Whether we ultimately win the All-America City Award or not is almost secondary. What matters is that we have a roadmap for how we will engage children almost from the moment of birth with language development, reading, and other early learning to ensure that they come to school ready to learn and succeed.”
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