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The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

third-grade-reading-data-graphicResearch shows that reading proficiency at the end of third grade is the most important predictor of school success and high school graduation. This is because reading proficiency enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn as they encounter more complex curriculum in fourth grade and beyond. Students who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely not to graduate from high school than proficient readers. Yet in Oregon 28 percent of third graders fail to meet this benchmark. Among low-income students, 37 percent miss this critical milestone.

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is a national collaborative effort driven by this research. Foundations, nonprofits, business leaders, government agencies and communities across the nation are participating to ensure more children in low-income families are reading proficiently by the end of third grade, greatly increasing their chances of success in school and life.

The Campaign is based on the belief that community partnerships are key to tackling the problem.  It provides technical assistance to engaged communities of diverse partners that are taking up third-grade reading as an outcome. These communities are mobilizing to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents to serve as partners in their children’s success.

Campaign for Grade Level Reading communities are improving third-grade reading outcomes by working in three focus areas:

  • School readiness – ensuring more children arrive at kindergarten prepared to learn
  • School attendance – ensuring children in preschool and K-3 miss fewer days of school
  • Summer learning – ensuring children do not lose ground during the summer months

Along the way, communities are engaging parents and families because research shows students are most successful when their parents and involved and engaged in their learning. Parents are a child’s first teachers, and this role begins at birth. Healthy physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development in the earliest years greatly impacts children’s ability to learn and become proficient readers.
Is your community working to increase third-grade reading proficiency? Take the pledge and let us know.

Grade Level Reading Policy News and Blogs

  • Earl Boyles Builds Literacy with Multnomah County Library Partnership

    Multnomah County Lending Library at Earl Boyles ElementaryAccess to books and time to read are essential for kids who want to explore, learn, and build their literacy skills. That’s why the Multnomah County Library (MCL) established a Lending Library at Earl Boyles Elementary in Southeast Portland — to provide a free resource for young readers and their families that removes barriers to books and reading.

    Considered a demonstration site, the Lending Library began three years ago with a grant from The Library Foundation and 2,500 hundred books. MCL moved forward with the initiative after learning about Early Works, an initiative launched by Children’s Institute with key partners including the David Douglas School District, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, and Multnomah Early Childhood Program. MCL recognized an opportunity to serve the community with a unique public school partnership, impact early literacy in a high-needs community, and bring books directly to students and families.

    Increasing the number of books in the home is associated with improved literacy rates, and reaching 26 books or more in a household correlates with higher academic achievement in later years. Evaluations of the Earl Boyles community beginning in 2011 indicated a lack of books in the homes of kindergarteners. Today, the number of kindergarteners’ homes with more than 26 books has increased from 47 percent in 2011 to 74 percent in 2014.


    Read more

  • Happy summer learning day!

    group reading LaneToday is National Summer Learning Day! Here are some updates on what Oregon’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities are doing to keep families and students engaged throughout the summer.

    In Yoncalla, Early Works is partnering with the local library to supplement their summer reading program, which targets kids age birth to five and their parents. North Douglas P-3 Alignment (?) is also offering summer Play to Learn Community Playgroups – providing the community with activities like free swimming, summer learning activities, free books and early literacy activities.

    In Lane County, 12 school districts are offering the Kids in Transition to School (KITS) Program, designed to provide a boost to children’s literacy, numeracy, self-regulation, and social skills just prior to kindergarten entry. KITS also supports families through the transition to kindergarten, sharing successful strategies for encouraging their young learners. The United Way of Lane County is also organizing a volunteer project called Summer Reading Spots to provide literacy-building reading experiences for young children and to encourage parents to actively participate in reading with their kids.Volunteer readers spend one hour in the park reading with children, three days a week. Each time a child attends, they are given a free book to take home with them so that they can begin their own library at home.

    This summer Earl Boyles Elementary is hosting an early kinder transitions program for students and families, summer school with an enhanced reading program for rising second and third graders, a weekly food pantry, and housing justice leadership trainings for parents of color.

    kids playing WallowaIn Wallowa County, the non-profit Building Health Families is hosting a Day of Summer Learning Celebration. The open house is providing a number of activities in science, art, reading and more. There are six partners coming to do activities with kids, and healthy snacks, take-home ideas, and prizes will be provided to all participants.

    The newest Oregon GLR community, West Medford, is supporting an eight-week Read and Feed program at two food sites this summer. Kids Unlimited camp counselors read at lunch time to the kindergarten population as well as anyone from the community who would like to join. Each site has been provided 25 books to take home after the program. West Medford is also hosting a gently used book giveaway at their local (very popular) pool, and is continuing their food bank on Tuesday mornings for families.

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  • Lane County KITS helps kids get ready for kindergarten

    IMG 0416wIt's the first week in August – week five of Lane County's Kids in Transition to School program – and this week's theme is sportsmanship. A dozen wiggly future kindergartners sit in a circle with their teachers, passing a small ball back and forth as they chant: "The wonder ball goes round and round, rolling fast right over the ground."

    As the chant continues, most of the kids begin to focus more intently on the ball. After all, if it's closest to you at the end of the chant, you're out!

    This time around, a little boy is caught with the ball. “Oh well,” he says, along with his teachers, as he moves out of the circle, mimicking an appropriate response to having lost the game.

    Sportsmanship is one of the many skills these children will learn over eight weeks this summer before they start kindergarten. The hope of their teachers is that they will arrive on their first day of school ready to succeed, having practiced important self-regulation skills and learned the conventions of a classroom, like standing in line and raising your hand. The program also jumpstarts their early literacy skills and allows them to socialize with other children and teachers.

    In addition to this class for children, the Lane County KITS program includes a weekly class for their parents and caregivers. In these sessions, the group discusses early literacy and behavior strategies that the parents can then try at home and report back on the following week.

    Studies of the KITS program have shown very positive results: they’ve shown it helps children make significant gains in early literacy and self-regulation skills, both during the summer and throughout kindergarten. The program serves students in eleven schools in six different school districts in Lane County. And the United Way of Lane County – which helped to start the program – was recently awarded a five-year federal Social Innovation Fund grant of $2 million to expand the program further. This adds greatly to the funding Lane County received in 2014 through the state's Kindergarten Partnership and Innovation Fund, some of which went to support KITS.

    KITS started in 2010, after the United Way of Lane County set an ambitious goal: that the majority of children in the county would arrive at kindergarten with basic literacy skills and adequate social and emotional development by 2020. United Way leaders were seeking early learning and parent engagement programs and discovered a project that the Oregon Social Learning Center, a non-profit research organization, was working on to prepare foster kids for school. It was a great fit and the two organizations teamed up.

    Dr. Katherine Pears, senior research scientist at the Oregon Social Learning Center, developed KITS and continues to investigate its impact. She says that the program has a few features that distinguish it from other interventions for young children. “It’s targeted on school readiness, just during that transition period,” Pears says. She says it also focuses on kids and parents, helps to fill the summer services gap, and is accessible to the most at-risk kids. “It’s very accessible, because we provide transportation, food, translation services and child care on days when the parent group meets,” she says.

    While the kids finish their game and start to wash up for a snack, their parents and caregivers are meeting down the hall. This week their discussion has focused on how to encourage positive behavior at home, and attendees are reporting in on strategies they tried out this week.

    One man talked about teaching his grandson about safety. “When I bring him here and we get out of the car, I say ‘Okay, what do we do next?’ He says: ‘We look both ways.’ I ask him every time we come and he remembers pretty well now.”

    Pears says that the inspiration for the parent and caregiver group sessions was what she heard from kindergarten teachers. “Teachers said that they can teach literacy skills and catch kids up there, but kids need to already have self-regulation. And what builds that? Positive parenting and involvement.”

    KITS has gotten a lot of attention lately due to its impact on the people it serves. Pears has conducted two randomized efficacy trials of KITS – each study included a control group of kids and families who did not attend KITS and an experimental group who did. In addition to gains in early literacy and self-regulation skills, kids who attended KITS were less aggressive in the spring of their kindergarten year. Adults who attended KITS were more effective in parenting during the summer and more involved in their child's education during kindergarten.

    The KITS program has expanded from just two schools in 2010 to eleven now, but its incredible results mean demand for the program is high in the county.

    The United Way’s new $2 million federal grant, from the Corporation for National and Community Service, will help meet this county-wide demand. The organization will identify and award funding to organizations that can implement the KITS program at schools throughout the county. The United Way is also raising matching funds to commit to KITS.

    "The grant will help break down barriers to implementing the program more widely and foster growth," says Dr. Pears. Barriers like a lack of tools and manuals, and funding for ongoing technical assistance for those implementing the program.

    This technical assistance is of critical importance. Chris Parra, deputy superintendent in the Bethel School District where KITS is operating at several schools, led the effort to launch the program in the district. "Taking a research program and condensing it for a Bethel-owned program was difficult. Technical assistance was essential for us, and we will continue to need the support in the coming years," Parra says.

    Other communities in Oregon are offering similar kindergarten transition programs, including Early Works sites at Earl Boyles Elementary in Southeast Portland and Yoncalla Elementary in rural Douglas County. All three communities are part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a national collaboration working to ensure all children are reading at grade level by third grade. School readiness is one of the Campaign’s three key focus areas.

    At Earl Boyles, the program is part of Multnomah County's Early Kindergarten Transitions network. The Children’s Institute’s Andreina Velasco, Early Works site liaison at Earl Boyles, teaches the parent portion of the program.

    “Parents who participate have an opportunity to get acquainted with the school and staff, as well as bring home tools to support learning at home,” Velasco says. “Above all, though, our goal is to start building a partnership with families and that they feel supported as their child’s first and most important teacher.”

    This summer, Yoncalla Elementary hosted a kindergarten transition program for the first time. While attendance was small, Yoncalla kindergarten teacher Kaaron Lyons saw an immediate impact. “By the first day I could see it was so important and valuable,” Lyons says. “It gave me insights I didn't know. For example, the majority of the group didn't know their colors, so I’m able to have that information as I plan my first weeks.”

    Lyons was recently able to visit the KITS program in Lane County and came away inspired for next year, particular after seeing the parent and caregiver group discussion. “One of my main focuses this year will be helping parents feel really engaged and have ownership of their kid’s education,” she says.

    The KITS program materials and implementation tools will be available soon, as well as opportunities for organizations in Lane County to host the program. Find out more on the KITS website at

    Read more

  • How Four Oregon Communities Tackle Summer Learning Loss

    Happy National Summer Learning Day! June 19th is the National Summer Learning Association’s official kick-off of a summer full of learning and fun for children.

    Programs are taking place across the country and Oregon is no exception. For example, Building Healthy Families, a nonprofit based in Enterprise, recently hosted a summer learning fair with educational activities for kids and resources for parents to engage their kids all summer long.

    The resources for families are the most important part, according to Maria Weer, Building Healthy Families’ executive director. “It makes it easy for families to commit to turn off the TV and go do something fun,” she says.

    The National Summer Learning Association hosts Summer Learning Day to build awareness about how summer learning loss widens the achievement gap and how to fight it. This year the organization created a national map of hundreds of activities going on around the country.

    Research shows that low-income students lose skills in math and reading each summer. In the fall, they return to school having fallen behind their peers who had access to camps, family vacations and other learning-rich activities during the summer. These losses are cumulative – year after year, the achievement gap grows.

    “I was a teacher, and it’s clear which kids are actively engaging their minds over the summer,” says Weer. “It’s so important to spread the word about summer activities.”

    Summer learning opportunities that are accessible for all children are the best way to combat this loss. That’s why the NSLA is recognizing these activities on its map. So far, 634 activities are listed and organizations around the country have pledged to serve more than 680,000 children.

    GLR-OR-mapSummer learning is also one of the key strategies of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The campaign is a national collaboration of communities focused on helping children stay on track for reading success by third grade. There are four member communities in Oregon, including the Early Works sites at Earl Boyles Elementary in Portland and Yoncalla Elementary in Yoncalla. All four communities have learning activities planned for the summer. Here’s what’s going on:


    Lane County

    • Kids in Transition to Kindergarten – The Kids in Transition to Kindergarten program is 16 weeks of school readiness activities for incoming kindergartners during the summer and fall. It also includes workshops for their parents and caregivers.
    • Summer Reading Spots – All summer long, volunteers organized by the United Way of Lane County will lead storytime at sites around the county. Storytimes immediately follow Food for Lane County’s Summer Lunch Program and all kids who attend will receive a book to take home.
    • Little Free Libraries – Ten new Little Free Libraries will be installed throughout the county in areas without access to a public library.

    Wallowa County

    • Summer Learning Fair – This week, Building Healthy Families and its partners hosted a fair to encourage summer learning. Activities for kids included making Lego cars move with rubber bands and creating works of art with solar art paper.
    • Event Sharing – The fair also had information for families about a host of other activities happening all summer long. Families that take a photo when they take part in a summer learning activity can bring it to Building Healthy Families to receive a prize.

    Earl Boyles Elementary

    • Kindergarten Counts – Kindergarten Counts is a two-week transition to school program for incoming kindergartners and their parents and caregivers.
    • Summer SUN – Operated at Earl Boyles by Metropolitan Family Service, the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods program this summer includes a four-week academic and sports camp as well as the Book Worm reading club, a four-week intensive reading skills camp. The Book Worm reading club is offered in partnership with Reading Results, SMART, and the Children's Book Bank.

    Yoncalla Elementary

    • Early Kindergarten Transition program – For the first time, Yoncalla Elementary school is offering a two-week program for incoming kindergartners and their parents and caregivers. The program is modeled on Multnomah County’s Kindergarten Counts program.
    • Summer Reading – The Yoncalla Library is hosted a superhero-themed summer reading program.

    Read more

  • 15 Communities Join Nationwide Effort

    Network-Community-Additions-national-PRToday the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announced the addition of 15 new communities nationwide to their network. These communities have made a commitment to pursuing the goal of reading proficiency by third grade through partnerships, planning, and program implementation. We're thrilled to announce that two of those new communities are our own Early Works sites, Earl Boyles Elementary and Yoncalla Elementary.

    Earl Boyles and Yoncalla join two other Oregon communities, Lane County and Wallowa County, that have been making excellent progress towards third-grade reading achievement over the past three years. In Lane County, a very successful school readiness program called KITS (Kids in Transition to School) is being looked at for replication around the state. In Wallowa County, partnerships have been formed with area pediatricians and the public library to engage families in early literacy.

    See the press release

    Learn more about the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Oregon

    Read more

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