City Proposal to Improve Third Grade Reading Selected as Finalist for National Award

~Innovative plan to ensure that low-income students are reading on grade-level
by the end of third grade picked from more than 100 applicants~

An ambitious plan to ensure that more city of Richmond children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade has been chosen as a finalist for the All-America City Award, sponsored each year by the National Civic League.  

The plan was submitted by a community coalition that included Richmond Public Library Richmond Public Schools, the City of Richmond’s Early Childhood Development Initiative, and United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg. Other partners include Communities in Schools, RVA Promise Neighborhood, Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Literacy Institute at VCU. Richmond is one of 32 finalists selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 100 entries across the country. Winners will be announced July 2 in Denver, Colorado. Beyond the award contest, Richmond’s plan makes the city a charter member in a national movement of local leaders, nonprofits and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. Students who haven't mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives.

“Ensuring that a child is reading at grade level will have fundamental implications to that child’s overall success over the course of their educational year,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “Collaboration is critical in addressing educational issues, and the range of partners involved in developing Richmond’s plan shows our community commitment to achieving our grade level reading goals. Not only are partnerships critical, but we must always strive to be innovative and cutting edge in our pursuits for an educational system built on excellence.”

The 124 cities and counties involved in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging the full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade. The plans involve schools but acknowledge that they alone cannot address the myriad problems that keep children from learning to read. The strategies include ensuring that children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed, attend school regularly and keep learning through the summer months.

Richmond’s community effort envisions that all children in grades K-3 will read on grade level. Knowing that education begins early, Richmond’s plan includes early childhood support centers and provides information for parents on how learning begins at home. Collaboration and data-sharing will be key factors in decreasing summer learning loss and in increasing consistent attendance for students, beginning as early as attendance in pre-school programs. The Richmond Public Library will work with community non-profits to add literacy components to summer programs for children, addressing retention of skills over the summer months. Richmond’s plan will involve the RVA Promise Neighborhood initiative, Communities in Schools, and Richmond Public Schools to test models for supporting school attendance. Richmond Public Schools and the Literacy Institute at VCU will also develop a new triangulated method to comprehensively assess 3rd grade reading levels that combines data from the 3rd grade Standards of Learning and PALS (Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening) scores.

"The mastery of reading skills is the foundation upon which all learning takes place,” said Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon.  To ensure that our students master this most critical skill, Richmond Public Schools has embraced a comprehensive partnership with several Richmond City agencies, the Literacy Institute at Virginia Commonwealth and other community resources that target our goal for students to read on grade level by third grade. In the end, we want our students to not only master the skills of reading but also discover the joys of being a lifelong reader."

As a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network, Richmond will have access to a Promising Practices Clearinghouse, an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers, and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.

For media inquiries about the Campaign or the Grade-Level Reading Community Network conference and award ceremony from June 30 - July 2 in Denver CO., contact Phyllis Jordan at or (301) 656-0348 or (202) 413-2247, or Stacey Mink at or (410) 962-5707.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by dozens of funders and nonprofit partners across the nation to ensure that low-income children succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on the most important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade.