This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s literacy initiative Read by 4th is building momentum in its mission to have students reading at grade level by 4th grade.
A mayoral roundtable was held in February to provide an update on the campaign’s progress and to discuss future goals for improving early childhood literacy in the city.
Nearly 20 speakers attended, including Mayor Kenney, Superintendent William Hite, and Read by 4th executive director Jenny Bogoni. Otis Hackney, Philadelphia’s chief education officer, and Loraine Ballard Morrill, community affairs director for iHeartMedia, were the emcees.
Kenney said, “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 in 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.
Research indicates that students who are unable to read at grade level by 4th grade are more vulnerable to having difficulty in learning, which leads to a higher risk of dropping out of school. It has been reported that only 33 percent of Philadelphia’s students are reading proficiently by 4th grade. Read by 4th has presented a multi-faceted plan to increase that number to 100 percent by 2020.
The campaign aims to use mobile apps and text alerts to help parents teaching their children at home; improve literacy instruction in schools; work to increase attendance throughout the District; use leveled libraries in classrooms and at home to meet students at their reading level; provide every child with free access to a tutor in their neighborhood library; and designate a “reading hero” on every block to read to local children.
“I am feeling super excited about it,” Bogoni said. “I think there were incredible ideas put forward. It was so heartwarming to see the number of civic leaders and community leaders who are committed to helping us turn those ideas to action.”