UPDATE: The Central Savannah River Area Regional Educational Service Agency has announced the Get Augusta Reading summit scheduled for Friday, March 13 at Augusta University’s Summerville Campus has been postponed. Augusta University’s College of Education, along with Get Georgia Reading Campaign and the Central Savannah River Area Regional Educational Service Agency, hope to reschedule the Get Augusta Reading summit during the fall semester to help make sure children in Georgia are reading at grade level.
More than 36 million adults in the United States cannot read above a third-grade level and nearly half of all adults at the lowest literacy levels are living in poverty, according to ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation.
For most people, learning to read takes place in the primary grades (K-3), and reading levels grow throughout their years of schooling and even into adulthood.
In 2013, Georgia educators and politicians recognized that two-thirds of the state’s children were not reading proficiently by the end of third grade, an alarming indicator for adult literacy that needed to be addressed.
Low achievement in reading has a direct impact on the economy, safety, and public health of all Georgia’s citizens.
Next fall, Augusta University’s College of Education hopes to team up with the Get Georgia Reading Campaign and the Central Savannah River Area Regional Educational Service Agency to present a day-long summit called, Get Augusta Reading, to bring together community members to address the campaign’s four-pillars framework to support reading for children ages birth to 8 across this region.
“We know that kids who don’t read on grade level by third grade are more likely to fall further behind,” said Dr. Kim Barker, an assistant professor in the department of teaching and leading at Augusta University’s College of Education.
“Students who are not reading on grade level by the end of the third grade also are more likely to have a lifetime of negative outcomes such as being involved in more discipline problems in school, becoming teen parents, dropping out of school, suffering poor health, being unemployed, and even spending time in prison.”
“Sometimes the question comes up, ‘Why do you focus on third grade reading?’” Barker added. “Third grade is the time when children are shifting in school from learning to read to reading to learn. They are probably no longer getting that really targeted and intensive reading instruction after third grade. They are expected to be able to read textbooks and learn content. That is where the breakdown often happens. If they are not ready at that point, then they are likely to fall further behind.”
The goal of Augusta University’s Get Augusta Reading event is to learn about ways to help ensure children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade.
“There is progress being made, but it’s slow-going work,” said Barker. “The idea behind this effort is to bring community members from the public and private sectors together to think about children in the area and how we can support them and their literacy journey beginning long before they start school.”
Community leaders, principals, teachers, literacy coaches, business owners and leaders, law enforcement officers, judicial system members, neighborhood association leadership, members of the local medical community, representatives from the library, religious leaders as well as members of sororities and fraternities are interested in attending the Get Augusta Reading summit.
“It is a wide cross-section of people,” Barker said. “We’ve really tried to reach out to educators, but also people who are not necessarily traditional educators. We wanted to invite all people who have the ability to impact children’s lives and anyone in the community that’s interested in the welfare of children.”
• Language nutrition: All children receive abundant, language-rich adult-child interactions, which are as critical for brain development as healthy food is for physical growth.
• Access: All children and their families have year-round access to, and supportive services for, healthy physical and social-emotional development and success in high-quality early childhood and elementary education.
• Positive learning climate: All educators, families, and policymakers understand and address the impact of learning climate on social-emotional development, attendance, engagement, academic achievement and ultimately student success.
• Teacher preparation and effectiveness: All teachers of children ages 0-8 are equipped with evidence-informed skills, knowledge, and resources that effectively meet the literacy needs of each child in a developmentally appropriate manner.
“At this summit we’ll facilitate people getting together and thinking about how their own work fits into these pillars that support early literacy and how we can work together through innovative partnerships to support grade-level reading,” Barker said. “That’s what this is all about.”
Barker hopes this future summit will help promote programs such as Augusta University’s College of Education recent partnering with Richmond County’s Intermediate Literacy and Math Center principal Stacey King to provide donated books and clothing to students.
The ILMC is a grade 3-5 elementary school where students are at least two grade levels behind in literacy and math. The school is also located on 15th Street, an area that has been determined to be a food desert with a high poverty rate.
“Stacey King’s school received almost 5,000 books due to a recent community collaboration,” Barker said. “That’s the kind of action we hope to inspire. We want to get these conversations going and let people see where the gaps are and where there are opportunities to work together.”
The key is for everyone to play a role in strengthening the community, Barker said.
“Getting all Georgia children to read takes more than good schools, more than great teachers and more than loving parents,” Barker said. “That’s Get Georgia Reading’s motto and that’s really the theme of the day. It takes all of us working together, so this is just a chance for us to be in the same room, to talk, and to plan for action.”