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United Way of Salt Lake’s ambitious plan to ensure that more 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.
“We are thrilled to be listed among the finalists for this award,” said Deborah Bayle, president and CEO, United Way of Salt Lake. “We focus on third grade reading and achievement because we know it is a key indicator of a child’s future success in school and life. Together with our partners, we have established a bold set of goals and strategies to level the playing field and change the odds for all children so that every child can succeed, every step of the way, from cradle to career.”
Beyond the award contest, United Way of Salt Lake’s plan makes the organization 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.
The plan was submitted by a cross-sector coalition of partners including: United Way of Salt Lake, the city of South Salt Lake, Clearfield City, Salt Lake County, Park City, Granite School District, Park City School District, Davis School District, and several nonprofit organizations. United Way of Salt Lake is one of 32 finalists selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 120 entries across the country selected. Winners will be announced July 2 in Denver, Colo.
“We know that significant gaps in reading proficiency are exacerbated by poverty, language barriers, lack of parental resources and support, and lack of academic support and enrichment opportunities during out-of-school time,” said Martin Bates, superintendent, Granite School District. “These challenges are significant and no organization, institution, or sector working in isolation can close the achievement gap on their own. It takes the efforts of all sectors and organizations coming together in a united effort to truly transform the lives of children and families."
Over the past four years, United Way has grown the number of Neighborhood Centers from four to 26. Located in schools, apartment complexes, and community centers, Neighborhood Centers are natural gathering places for kids and families. Strategic programs aligned and delivered on-site focused on improving reading results include: home visitation, parent education, high quality preschool, school-based reading interventions, volunteer reading support and tutoring, after school and summer school reading support and enrichment, and parent engagement.
As a charter member of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network, United Way of Salt Lake and coalition partners 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.