An alarming number of children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole. On average only 70% of Sarasota County’s 3rd graders are reading at grade-level.
Our Role in the Solution
In 2014, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County prepared the Community Solutions Action Plan for Sarasota, and we were accepted into the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Our work in early literacy incorporates a two-generation approach (include a link to our 2Gen webpage), working with both low-income children and their parents simultaneously so that the family has the necessary supports to be successful. In addition, we have chosen to focus where we believe our donors’ dollars will make the greatest impact: the attendance zones for four Title 1 schools with students who are most challenged by achieving reading success—Alta Vista Elementary School, Emma E. Booker Elementary School, Gocio Elementary School and Tuttle Elementary School – with a concentrated effort to eliminate summer learning loss. In 2012, a donor, a principal and the Community Foundation began a summer pilot program to prevent summer learning loss. Over 4 years data showed that not only can high-quality summer programs prevent learning loss, but these programs – Summer Learning Academies (SLAs) which are free to students -- help close the achievement gap because most students make gains. The model expanded to three additional schools in 2016. Today, SLAs are offered in 11 of our Title 1 elementary schools with Parent University programming once a week.
In addition to working with these schools, the Community Foundation has partnered to fund programs focused on these target zones with a variety of local nonprofit organizations. One notable program is Horizons Unlimited Christian Academy, an early childhood learning center, integrated the 2gen approach with their high-quality early education program to help families reach their full potential while also providing educational and career development opportunities for parents and teachers. Results: 100% of the children in this VPK program tested ready for kindergarten.
Other partners include: Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota, The Florida Center for Early Childhood, Literacy Council of Sarasota, Notre Dame Club of Sarasota, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Parenting Matters, Sarasota County Libraries, Sarasota County Schools, Sarasota Reading Council, UnidosNow, Van Wezel, and Women’s Resource Center.
Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
In April of 2015, a collection of local foundations, nonprofit partners, and government agencies throughout Sarasota and Manatee County came together to form the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This communitywide effort aims to help all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on three pillars: promoting school readiness, combating summer learning loss and preventing chronic absence. The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading continues to grow and currently includes representatives from numerous local organizations.
Learn more about the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading