We recently hosted funding colleagues from across the state to hear Ralph Smith, head of the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading, talk about the growing momentum for increasing reading proficiency by the end of third grade. Cities, towns and communities across the country (including Springfield) are engaged in planning for or executing their plans to move the needle on this important milestone in children's development. With the belief that up to 3rd grade children learn to read and after 3rd grade children read to learn, the Davis Foundation has researched, mounted and continues to implement a campaign, Reading Success by 4th Grade (RS4G), which is aligning programs, resources, energy, and funding with a goal of increasing the quality of children's language and reading environments across the many setting in which they are growing up, from birth to age 9.
Understanding that this work is an investment in the community's youngest citizens, which begins at their birth and will ensure that they have the foundation for academic and life success, the Davis Foundation has also founded the Funder Collaborative for Reading Success (FCRS), raising $1.3 million from thirteen funding colleagues, and using the resources to deepen the work in the community which supports this important goal. FCRS members Katie Allen Zobel (President of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts) and Mary Walachy (Executive Director of the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation) explained the creation, development and implementation of the collaborative to colleagues in the room, citing Ralph Smith's presence in Springfield to participate in the collaborative launch in 2011.
"We realized that as funders we are constantly encouraging our grantees to collaborate. We decided that we ought to practice what we preach, and that is exactly what is happening in the FCRS. We are learning from each other regularly and about the important issue we are tackling together," reported Walachy.
At the luncheon, Smith presented Davis Foundation trustee Steve Davis and Executive Director Mary Walachy with a Community Pacesetter Award for the RS4G campaign's leadership in the national movement.
Early in the campaign, we realized "that ensuring Springfield's children are successful early readers is the responsibility of the entire community and requires a multi-sector, multi-dimensional effort that is beyond the scale of any single organization to address effectively. Our community and our fellow funders have stepped up to the plate," said Steve Davis upon accepting the award. "I am accepting this on behalf of our entire community."