This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s literacy initiative called Read by 4th is building momentum in its mission to have young students reading at grade level by 4th grade.
About 100 people gathered at City Hall on Thursday for a mayoral roundtable to provide an update on the campaign’s progress and to discuss goals moving forward for improving early childhood literacy in the city.
Nearly 20 speakers including Mayor Kenney, Superintendent William Hite, and Jenny Bogoni, executive director of Read by 4th, attended the event. Otis Hackney, the Philadelphia’s chief education officer, and Loraine Ballard Morrill, community affairs director for iHeartMedia, were the emcees.
“The challenge we’re tasked with today is how we’re going to make sure all of our children are reading at grade level by fourth grade,” said Kenney. “There’s no doubt that everyone in this room shares a commitment to Read by 4th’s mission.”
Read by 4th has partnered with many organizations throughout the city to bring literacy aid to local communities, including Philadelphia Youth Network, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and the United Way of Greater Philadelphia & Southern New Jersey.
They’ve also received millions in funding from the Knight Foundation, the Lenfest Foundation, PECO, Wells Fargo, and more, in addition to pledged support from Kenney, whose administration has made a strong push for early childhood education.
And Read by 4th’s mission is right on time.
Research has shown that students who are unable to read at grade level by 4th grade are more vulnerable to learning difficulties, which leads to a higher risk of dropping out of school. It has been reported that only 33 percent of Philadelphia’s young students are reading proficiently by 4th grade. Read by 4th has presented a multi-faceted plan to increase that number to 100 percent in 2020.
The campaign aims to assist parents teaching their children at home through mobile apps and text alerts; improve literacy instruction in schools; work to increase attendance — a strong indicator of reading proficiency — throughout the District; use leveled libraries in classrooms and at home to meet every student at their reading level; provide every child with free access to a tutor in their neighborhood; and designate a “reading hero” on every block to read to local children.
“I am feeling super excited about it,” said Bogoni. “I think there were incredible ideas put forward. It was so heart-warming to see the number of civic leaders and community leaders who are committed to helping us turn those ideas to action.”