Turn the Page reading initiative gets national recognition January 31, 2014

The Kansas City Star

Turn the Page KC, an effort to improve third-grade reading proficiency in Kansas City schools, has received some national recognition.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has named Turn the Page one of its “35 Pacesetters for 2013.”

“We are impressed and inspired by what Turn the Page KC has accomplished so far,” said Ralph Smith, the managing director for the campaign and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“With its commitment, resourcefulness and collaborative spirit, Kansas City truly is setting the pace and providing a model for communities across the nation who are seeking to give more children from low-income families a chance at a brighter future.”

The award recognized the program’s activities to increase awareness and to promote third-grade literacy and reading readiness. It particularly noted the mobilization efforts around summer learning and school attendance.

Mayor Sly James launched the Turn the Page KC initiative in March 2012 and said one of his top priorities would be to make sure all third-graders in the city read at grade level.

Educators say children need to learn to read proficiently by third grade so that in subsequent grades they can “read to learn.” But tests in 2011 showed appallingly low proficiency in Kansas City, with only one-third of third-graders in public schools proficient or better. Those numbers drew from all or portions of 11 school districts and charter schools.

Since then, James has named a volunteer board of civic leaders to spearhead the initiative. They have been raising money and are preparing to hire an executive director. The local initiative also has secured grants for recruitment of literacy volunteers and the development of training and assessment materials.

An eight-week literacy tutoring effort last summer served 2,700 students, and the mayor’s office said those students gained, on average, five months in reading proficiency.

The program also has helped recruit 352 community volunteers to serve as reading buddies with 376 students in kindergarten through third grade, according to the mayor’s office.

James said in a statement that he was proud of the national recognition, and he thanked all the local initiative’s community partners.

“Without their time, energy and collaboration, this kind of progress would not be possible,” he said.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.
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