News release issued March 3, 2016:

Cedar Rapids Joins Nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — Cedar Rapids is taking a big step toward improving student success by joining the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), a nationwide movement to increase early reading proficiency. The local effort, called Reading into Success, is a collaborative community initiative including four school districts, and more than 20 organizations and programs that want to increase the number of children reading proficiently by third grade. United Way of East Central Iowa is one of these organizations.

“We are honored to provide backbone support toward setting the youngest members of our community on a path to success,” says Lois Buntz, President and CEO of United Way of East Central Iowa. “With education as a core focus area for our organization and a community goal of improving fourth grade reading, being a lead in bringing the Campaign for Grade Level Reading to the Cedar Rapids community was a natural fit for United Way of East Central Iowa.”

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade 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.” National tests show that two-thirds of fourth graders in the United States (four-fifths of whom are from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. Locally, one in four third graders do not read proficiently, a number that increases to one in three for low-income students. Students who have not mastered reading by third grade are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

“We know that the ability of a child to read at grade level by age nine is critical to the child’s future,” says Les Garner, President and CEO at the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation. “Unfortunately, too many of our children in our metro area are not meeting this benchmark. We are proud to be part of a community-wide solution for this issue. This is about all community members understanding the importance of grade level reading, and coming together to support children and impact academic outcomes.”

The plan focuses on addressing five underlying challenges that can keep young children, especially those from low-income families, from learning to read proficiently:
• School readiness: Too many children enter kindergarten already behind
• School attendance: Too many young children miss too many days of school
• Summer learning: Too many children lose ground academically during the summer
• Hope & well-being: Too many children suffer adverse experiences or negative life circumstances
• Every day reading: Too many children aren’t exposed to books in their homes

Membership in the GLR Communities Network gives Cedar Rapids 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 240 communities across the country.

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