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Mission and Vision

Reading Success by 4th Grade

Our Goal: All children will read proficiently by the end of third grade.

Our Mission: To ensure that the entire community is organized and working together to help all children acquire the fundamental reading and language skills necessary for success in school and in life.

Rationale: Until third grade, a child learns to read. After third grade, a child reads to learn. Children who read proficiently by the time they reach third grade are more likely to develop the skills needed to succeed in the knowledge-based workforce of the future, graduate from high school, find jobs with a livable wage and become informed, effective citizens.

What we know: 
Children who master reading in the earliest grades are well prepared to learn in any subject.

From the moment of their birth, young children‘s brains are developing. Science shows early experiences actually build the architecture of the developing brain; much like a house is built from the bottom up. Each sequential step lays the groundwork for the next set of skills.

Families can nurture their children’s development beginning at birth by creating a language-rich home environment where they are talking, singing, reading and telling stories, in English or their native language. The larger a young child’s vocabulary and the more words he/she hears, the more prepared he/she will be for success in school.

The data tells us that about three-fourths of children who are struggling readers by the fourth grade will continue to struggle and are far more likely to drop out of school. Going forward, their prospects for economic success decline significantly.

An achievement gap is associated with socioeconomic status and parental involvement with reading. Consider these facts:

  • A child from a middle-income family typically enters first grade with about 1,000 hours of one-on-one picture book reading time with parents, other relatives or teachers, compared with a child from a low-income family, who averages less than 100 hours. 
  • First graders from lower-income families have a vocabulary half the size of children from higher-income families.
  • By age 3, children in low-income homes will have heard one-third as many words as children in middle and high-income homes (10 million versus 30 million words).

Gaps such as these are difficult to close by the time a child completes third grade, making programs that target children early, from birth to 5, all the more important. Children who enter kindergarten with poor early literacy skills tend to be poor readers in first grade and even into high school. Ten to fifteen percent of children with serious reading problems will drop out of high school, and about half of youth with criminal records or with a history of substance abuse have reading problems.1

Early literacy skills encompass a child's:

  • vocabulary;
  • print awareness;
  • knowledge of the alphabet;
  • awareness of the sounds that letters make and ability to connect sounds with letters;
  • written expression; and
  • motivation to read and interest in stories.

Early literacy skills do not emerge spontaneously but require time and practice.

The Work

We work on multiple intentional strategies with the primary goal of organizing the community to work together and put children on track to read at grade level by third grade, understanding that:

  • the best interventions begin before kindergarten;
  • parents and caregivers are their children's first and most important teachers;
  • and both home and educational environments must support building children's early literacy skills.

Work strategies include communications, convening/educating, advocacy, collaboration with community partners, and grantmaking.

1Discussion Guide: Ensuring Success for Young Children: Early Childhood Literacy, November 2008, Association of Small Foundations, Washington, D.C.