Summit County is taking a big step toward improving student success by joining the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR Campaign), a collaborative effort to improve reading proficiency, early learning and early school success for children from low-income families. In Summit County, the GLR Campaign is sponsored by First Things First, a coalition of local government and nonprofit agencies working together to address system gaps and ensure the success of our youngest residents that includes United Way of Summit County.
Third grade reading proficiency is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and success later in life because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives. For this reason, United Way has made improving early literacy a key component of its Bold Goals by 2025. As its Bold Goal 1, United Way is working to increase the number of Akron Public School (APS) third-graders reading at or above grade level to 65 percent.
As of 2017 – when the Bold Goals were first announced – 38 percent of APS students read at or above grade level in the third grade. Though county-wide statistics are better, with 66 percent of third-graders reading at or above grade level, raising reading achievement rates in Summit County will require a concerted effort to expand opportunities for students in the county’s urban core of Akron.
Membership in the GLR Communities Network gives Summit County access to experts and policymakers focused on early literacy, assistance in addressing the challenges that keep many children from learning to read and opportunities to share and learn best practices from more than 380 communities in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.
“We are thrilled to welcome the newest members of our growing network of communities,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Their commitment 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.”
The action plan developed by Summit County addresses three underlying challenges that can keep young children, especially those from low-income families, from learning to read proficiently — school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.
“United Way wants every student to succeed in school, so that they can one day build a rewarding career, support a healthy family and contribute to the success of our community,” said Jim Mullen, President and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “To make that possible, we need to address the many barriers to early reading and student success – at home and at school. We are proud that our community is joining a campaign that will help us accomplish that.”