Search for Solutions: Third Grade Reading Proficiency

SEARCH FOR SOLUTIONS:

Improving Early Literacy

Only 40% of Metro Denver third graders read on grade level. That rate declines to 20% for kids living in poverty. Help us ensure all kids can read by the end of 3rd grade.

Why is third grade reading proficiency a problem that needs a solution?

Until third grade, children learn to read. After third grade, children read to learn.

Third grade reading scores are a crucial predictive factor for graduation rates, success later in life, and the ability to be an engaged citizen in an increasingly complex world. Despite years of hard work by many, about 40% of kids living in the Denver Metro Area read on grade level by the end of third grade — that rate declines to about 20% for kids living in poverty. 

Why does this continue to be a problem? We talked to dozens of students, families, policymakers, and researchers, and it turns out at least part of the problem is how we’ve defined the problem:

1. Historically, we’ve heard…

Families largely believe that the largest contribution they can make to their kid’s early literacy journey is by reading books aloud…

…But during our research and community engagement, we found…

While reading aloud is both enjoyable and beneficial for kids and families, additional at-home literacy activities — such as songs and rhyming games — can be just as useful, if not more so, for young readers.

…And so now we’re wondering how we might…

Provide families with better, more actionable information about their child’s reading skills?

Provide families with the right tools so they can serve as one of the primary participants in building their children’s reading skills?

Arm them with the right knowledge about the best, easiest practices proven to improve a child’s reading skills?

2. Historically, we’ve heard…

Struggling readers just don’t like to read…

…But during our research and community engagement, we found…

Struggling students were often under-resourced. They overwhelmingly talked about how much they liked to learn and read; it’s just that they wanted to be able to take ownership of their reading — at their own pace and about subjects that interested them.

…And so now we’re wondering how we might…

Put kids in the driver’s seat by giving them new ways to learn to read on their own and at their own pace?

Make reading activities even more delightful and meaningful?

Help kids understand their own reading level — and the next steps they can take to grow?

3. Historically, we’ve heard…

Learning to read only happens at school…

…But during our research and community engagement, we found…

The foundations of literacy begin as early as when a child hears their family’s voices. As such, a whole village approach — one that extends before and beyond the classroom — has to be part of our approach to early literacy. Many educators agree, and are incredibly curious and thoughtful about how they might leverage their influence beyond the classroom.

…And so now we’re wondering how we might…

Provide outside-of-school community members better, more actionable information about the reading skills of the kids they know and may even care for?

Encourage new and different community members to join in actively improving our kids’ reading skills?

Equip them with the tools and resources needed to improve our kids’ reading skills?

This problem needs solutions from our entire community, not only educators. We’re actively seeking them.

What is a Search for Solutions (SFS) ?

At Gary Community Ventures, we’re not just grant makers; we’re problem-solvers.

Finding a solution that increases third grade reading rates in the Denver Metro Area is vital to our mission, and there’s no way we succeed without recommended solutions from you. That’s why we’ve designed a new process aiming to source innovative, community-wide solutions that increase access to opportunity for all Colorado kids and families. We’re calling it a Search for Solutions (SFS) 

You don’t need to be in Denver to submit a solution, and your solution doesn’t need to be fully baked. You don’t need to be in education, you don’t even need to have a job — we’re actively searching the nation for great ideas from families, nonprofits, teachers, businesses, advocates and even kids. 

There are three ways we could work together to bring solutions to our communities:

We might help you GROW your promising ideas or solutions that already exist (Click for example)

Example: Your nonprofit in Commerce City is already supporting reading instruction for native Spanish-speaking students. At Gary, we help you with funding, but we also offer wrap-around curriculum design support from the nation’s leading experts on cultural relevance, connect you with parent organizing groups in the area, support you in piloting your newest ideas in a local school, and help you document your success for other funders.

We might BUILD, with you, ideas or solutions that don’t yet exist (Click for example)

Example: You’re a mom in Aurora who started playing rhyming games with your kids at bedtime and noticed huge growth in their reading skills. You know there’s something there, but you’re not sure where to take it. At Gary, we’ll help you distill what you’ve learned, write up a business plan, and resource you to launch a go-to-market strategy so even more parents have access to this fun, innovative solution.

We might work together to CHANGE the policy landscape to make more solutions possible (Click for example)

Example: You’re a twenty-year-veteran Kindergarten teacher who goes to significant lengths to meet with the parents of your students at least six times a year. You’ve developed a parent-teacher conference tool that helps parents understand precisely how their child is doing and what to practice next. However, you end up doing these conferences on Saturdays and weeknights, and you’ve been told there’s no district or state funding to support other teachers in adopting your approach. At Gary, we’ll help you think about how to work with your school board or the state legislature to support meaningful collaboration that puts teachers and families on the same, well-resourced team.

What kinds of solutions are you looking for?

Three groups are central to this solution, and we believe they need to be engaged in specific ways.

We’ve done extensive research and participated in listening sessions with dozens of Metro Denver kids, families, schools and community leaders to define the problem behind our low third grade reading rates. These are the questions we believe we must answer in this SFS process:

For KIDS, how might we… (Click to expand)
  • put kids in the driver’s seat by giving them new ways to learn to read on their own and at their own pace?
  • make reading activities more delightful and meaningful?
  • help kids understand their own reading level and next steps they can take to grow?
For FAMILIES, how might we… (Click to expand)
  • provide better, more actionable information about a child’s reading skills?
  • provide the right knowledge and tools so they can serve as one of the primary participants in building a child’s reading skills?
  • arm them with the right knowledge about the best, easiest practices to improve a child’s reading skills?
For COMMUNITIES, how might we… (Click to expand)
  • provide them better, more actionable information about the reading skills of the kids in their care?
  • encourage new and different community members to join in improving our kids’ reading skills?
  • equip them with the tools and resources needed to improve our kids’ reading skills?

How do I submit a solution or a question — and what happens next?

All that’s needed to apply is a brief overview of your solution to support early reading. 

Please submit your idea from July 14 and Aug. 10. We’ll notify you on the status of your submission by Aug. 18. Click here for other important dates in the process.

Please remember that we believe reimagining and reshaping what’s possible for kids and families starts with listening, innovation and collaboration — not necessarily funding. So after you complete a submission, our team will reach out to discuss how we might partner to create a transformative solution together.

If you have questions, please click here to contact us.

Discover New Possibilities

Together, we will create the change our community wants to see. Whether you want to discover more about our ventures, or connect with a member of our team, we want to hear from you.