Improving Florida Children’s Reading Proficiency – And Their Chances for Success in Life

Did you know that one of the best predictors of high school graduation and career success is whether or not a child can read proficiently by the end of third grade? A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, for example, showed that students who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a high school diploma than proficient readers. For those who cannot master even basic reading skills by third grade, the rate is nearly six times greater.

This means that the vast majority of Florida children are at a distinct disadvantage by the time they reach fourth grade. Nearly two-thirds – 65 percent – of Florida students are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade. That figure jumps to 76 percent for students from low-income families, and to 83 percent for African American students. Anyone who cares about the future of our state should be deeply concerned by these numbers.

On the bright side, a new national movement called The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is working to help mobilize communities to come together to dramatically increase the percentage of children who are reading proficiently by the end of third grade. The Campaign’s goal: By 2020, a dozen states or more will increase by at least 100 percent the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently at the end of third grade. The Campaign focuses on three key strategies to achieve its goal: ensure that kids enter kindergarten fully ready to learn (including having a sufficient vocabulary); avoid chronic absences from school; and prevent learning loss over the summer.

So far 134 communities across the county have signed on to be a part of the Campaign’s movement, including nine communities in Florida.  At a funders convening that Florida Philanthropic Network co-hosted last week, in partnership with The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and The Patterson Foundation, an FPN member, we heard inspiring stories of how two of those Florida communities are working to increase reading proficiency:

  • In Vero Beach, The Learning Alliance has partnered with the School District of Indian River County and a number of after-school providers to achieve 90 percent third-grade literacy by 2018, through a campaign called the Moonshot Moment. The Alliance has received important financial and organizational support from the Indian River Community Foundation, an FPN member, which also participated in last week’s convening.
  • In Palm Beach County, the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, another FPN member, has just launched PBC Reads, a public education campaign that encourages reading at home, in school and in the community. The campaign is centered around the theme “My Happily Ever After Begins with Reading,” and will feature community reading events, book fairs, billboards and much more. To kick off the campaign, all 80,000+ children in the school district will choose a free book to take home and keep.

The Florida community of Vero Beach has established a “Moonshot Moment Goal” to have 90% of all of its students reading on grade-level by third grade by the year 2018. The campaign has received key support from the Indian River Community Foundation and other philanthropic organizations and individuals.

Other Florida communities that are part of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Network are Delray Beach, Gainesville & Alachua County, Jacksonville & Duval County, Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Tallahassee and Tampa & Hillsborough County. In addition, Sarasota has indicated its intention to join the Network.

You can learn more here about what other Florida communities are doing to support the Campaign’s goal to dramatically increase the literacy rates for young children in their communities. For more information about the Campaign, contact Ron Fairchild at

–    David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network

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