The importance of grade-level reading, particularly reading proficiency by third grade, has been a major focus of those in educational and social service circles for years. So to see our local media shine a bright light on the issue, as the Palm Beach Post did in its May 27 editorial “Superintendent pinpoints key factor in third-grade reading,” thrilled us.
Here, at the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, we’re working hard to ensure more Palm Beach County children are ready to learn when they enter kindergarten. The reason? Children who are ready socially, emotionally, physically and academically when they enter school are much more likely to be reading on grade level by third grade and, in turn, much more likely to graduate high school.
Many of our early childhood development programs aim to prepare young children for school by addressing potential delays, supporting parents and caregivers at home, and encouraging families to actively engage with their children – by reading, singing, talking and playing – every day. In fact, we were honored with a Pacesetter Award in 2012 for our school readiness efforts by the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
But the challenges many of today’s families face are great. Cyclical poverty, community instability and family dynamics play a big role in children’s readiness for school.
That’s why we’ve developed a wonderful working relationship with the School District of Palm Beach County. Since 2013, we’ve donated more than half a million books to Palm Beach County’s elementary school students in traditional and charter schools to help build home libraries and encourage summer reading. We’ve supported the work of the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, which currently runs numerous early literacy programs funded by the CSC. We’ve developed a summer reading program with our BRIDGES sites that help children in low-income communities maintain or improve their literacy assessment scores.
And in a little more than a week, we’ll be unveiling the first of our 20 Little Free Libraries – a civic engagement project we’ve developed with Leadership Palm Beach County. These mini libraries use a “take-a-book, leave-a-book” approach to encourage reading in communities where books may be hard to come by.
We recognize, and local test results underscore, the need for our community to do even more to bolster our children’s educational success. With the CSC’s continued work in early childhood development, School Superintendent Robert Avossa’s commitment to third-grade reading proficiency and local media support, we believe we’re on the right track.
LISA WILLIAMS-TAYLOR, WEST PALM BEACH
Lisa Williams-Taylor is CEO of Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County