March 2012

What’s New · Message from the Director:
Early Grade Level Reading Campaign Launched

Mother and child reading together

Recent reports have shown that across the United States many children are not reading at grade level by the third grade. Why does this matter? Until the third grade, children are learning to read. From the third grade on, children must read to learn. A child not reading adequately by third grade begins to fall behind in all areas of learning—not just reading. These children are far less likely to graduate on time, if they graduate at all. In fact, 74% of children who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade will not catch up in time to graduate with their class and are four times more likely to drop out of school. They cannot attain the same level of learning as their peers. So much depends on learning to read!

In late 2011 the Library gathered data from public schools across Hamilton County and mapped those schools to our branches. What we found is that the percentage of children reading at grade level by the third grade at these schools ranged from 46% to 98%, and in the communities served by nearly half of our branch libraries, fewer than 80% of the children are reading at grade level by the third grade.

Partnering to Solve the Problem

The Library is working with some 70 organizations, including the Strive Partnership, to launch a multi-year, multi-faceted campaign to improve third grade reading success in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The Early Grade Level Reading Campaign will focus on three factors that impact grade level reading: attendance, kindergarten readiness, and summer learning.

Storytime at the Cincinnati Zoo

To support this project, first we urge parents and other adults to make sure children attend school regularly. Again, the data shows that a student absent from school 10% or more of the time is far less likely to be reading at grade level by the third grade.

Next, our current programs to help prepare children for kindergarten must be expanded to reach all children. When children start kindergarten lacking the pre-literacy skills needed to succeed, data show that they never catch up to their peers. Two key factors in kindergarten readiness are access to quality preschool education and home visitations. Children in quality early learning programs earn $20,000 more per year as adults and save the state $19,000 per year in remediation and criminal justice costs.

Finally, we must stop summer learning loss. During summer vacation, children who do not participate in summer learning experiences like summer reading programs, visits to museums and libraries, summer camps or family trips fall behind their peers year after year until by the end of the fifth grade the gap between children participating in summer learning activities and those who don’t can be as much as 2.5 to 3 years.

Storytime at the Library

What is the Library Doing?

The Library offers many programs and services that can support the Early Grade Level Reading Campaign. First, we have a huge collection of reading materials for all ages. Second, we help prepare children for kindergarten by teaching the shared reading method to parents and educators. This reading technique helps children learn the pre-literacy skills they need to enter school ready to learn. Our Early Learning Express visits in-home childcare providers to offer shared reading training as well as books and manipulatives. Our Summer Reading program provides a valuable and free summer learning experience. Our educational and cultural programs are free and available year round at every Library location. Our Homework Central at the Main Library and Homework Centers at several branch libraries provide after school help for students, as does our Homework HelpNow online service that connects students to a teacher over the Internet when homework assistance is needed.

None of us can solve this problem alone, but if we work together to provide regional access to the resources needed, we can increase the number of children in our community reading at grade level. We owe it to our children to make this a priority for our community.