Community members gather for the initial Campaign for Grade-Level Reading meeting at United Way of Southwest Virginia. Front Row: Brenda Vernon, Brenda Sutherland, Megan Smith, Jennifer Johnson, Carolyn Koesters, Jackie Wilson, and Patty Warren. Back row: Chrystal Brown, Elaine Rock, Kim Sturgill, Dr. Sarah Seeley-Dick, Amanda Bailey, Karen Taylor, and Sherry Fletcher.

SWVA joins nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Community leaders, organizations commit to boosting early literacy

Abingdon, VA (July 26, 2018) – Southwest Virginia is taking a big step toward improving student success by joining the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR Campaign), a collaborative effort to improve reading proficiency, early learning, and early school success for children from low-income families.

“This campaign is another way for our region to come together and focus on creating a healthy, well-educated, and financially stable community,” said Travis Staton, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia. “Getting our kids reading at grade-level by the end of third grade is an important part of our cradle-to-career approach, and benefits last far beyond childhood. We just completed our book distribution of 50,000 books across the region to kick off our participation in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. We’re excited about our participation, and we’re committed to making sure Southwest Virginia’s next chapter is a good one.”

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and success later in life because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

According to the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Center, in 2017, 75% of Virginia’s third graders passed their Reading Subject Standards of Learning (SOL), with Southwest Virginia reporting an average of 77% throughout the 13 counties and 3 cities participating in the Campaign (the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton).

In Southwest Virginia, the GLR Campaign is led and supported by United Way of Southwest Virginia, and school systems, libraries, summer and after-school programs, and various cross-sector organizations will be collaborating to put the GLR framework and priorities into action over a multi-year period.

The community action plan addresses three underlying challenges that can keep young children, especially those from low-income families, from learning to read proficiently — school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.

“We are thrilled to welcome the newest members of our growing network of communities,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Their commitment to this vital mission comes at a critical time when too many children are falling beyond the reach of schools. We need systems that can assure 24/7/365, two-generation supports and interventions. By taking up this challenge, each of these communities commits to do more, to do better and to make a difference in assuring more hopeful futures for the next generation.”

Membership in the GLR Communities Network gives Southwest Virginia access to experts and policymakers focused on early literacy, assistance in addressing the challenges that keep many children from learning to read, and opportunities to share and learn best practices from more than 380 communities in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.

About United Way of Southwest Virginia
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers nearly 15% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit www.UnitedWaySWVA.org.

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, the GLR Campaign has grown to include more than 380 communities, representing 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada — with 3,900 local organizations and 450 state and local funders (including 185 United Ways). To learn more, visit gradelevelreading.net and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.