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Pittsburgh Joins National Effort to Raise Reading Proficiency by Third Grade

A coalition of lawmakers, charitable organizations, community foundations, businesses, and others will work together to boost literacy levels in young children. Pittsburgh this week became a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network. It's an effort that seeks to ensure all children can read well by third grade.

"Third grade is really a pivotal point when kids begin to transition to learning to read to applying that knowledge of reading to be able to learn in other areas," said Joe Welsh, program manager with United Way of Allegheny County.

Three main areas are cited for preventing kids from reaching a proficient reading level by third grade: chronic absence in early grades, summer learning loss, and lack of school readiness. Other factors come into play as well, including whether or not children are read to, and how often. To address the issues, the project will examine local resources.

"The first one is programs. We need to look at what programs currently exist and are available and what their capacities are, and then do an analysis to see where gaps are in services so that we can make sure all of the children of Allegheny County have opportunities to support their literacy," said Welsh.

There is a greater disparity among low-income children when it comes to reading proficiency levels, but Welsh added, this effort will reach out to all children. "This is not just a low-income, low performing school issues," Welsh said. "There are students in every school district in Allegheny County that have reading proficiency as an issue."

Pittsburgh joins 34 states and 350 school districts in the effort. As a charter member of the network, the city will have access to an online help desk, peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policymakers, and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs.

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