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Grassroots Effort to Increase Reading Proficiency in NC

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017   

RALEIGH, N.C. – More than one million adults in North Carolina have difficulty with reading and writing and a new initiative announced this week in the state aims to address illiteracy early in life.

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation is working with United Way of the Greater Triangle and other community coalitions to provide resources to existing organizations to support early-childhood reading.

Lisa Finaldi, community engagement leader for the NC Early Childhood Foundation, says advancing reading proficiency takes efforts from the public and private sectors.

"It really is a community effort," she said. "This isn't something that parents or schools can do by themselves, and when the whole community is aligned and working together, that's when we're going to be successful."

The partnership specifically offers help to programs in Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties, where only 40 percent of economically disadvantaged children have average grade-level reading proficiency, compared with 58 percent for all students. The Partnership will offer a combined initial investment of $700,000.

Experts and bodies of research suggest that to be successful readers by third grade, children need a healthy start from birth, with high-quality learning environments from birth to age eight.

Finaldi says the future of the state hinges on improving reading proficiency for all socioeconomic groups.

"It is an issue for the whole economy and the future of our workforce that we need to work with kids," she added. "And we know that if you're not reading at grade level by the end of third grade, you're more likely to not graduate from high school, not advance in your career."

Finaldi adds that by 2020, 67 percent of jobs in North Carolina will require post-secondary education.


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