Grade-Level Reading: A Community-wide Responsibility

It’s an unfortunate fact. A child’s ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade predicts his or her future. Why is third grade so crucial? Third grade marks the transition when students move from learning to read to reading to learn. If a child cannot read by the end of third grade, he or she is less likely to catch up, less likely to graduate from high school, and less likely to earn family-sustaining wages as an adult.

In New Orleans, only half of low-income third graders are reading at grade level. National research has shown that there are three primary issues that affect third grade reading: school readiness, summer learning loss and chronic absence in the elementary grades.

Schools and excellent teachers, alone, cannot ensure every New Orleans child reads on grade level by the end of third grade. Achieving this vision requires focused and sustained community-wide efforts that involve families, educators, schools, government, health care providers, nonprofit organizations, business leaders, and neighbors.

This is why United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Institute of Mental Hygiene and Converge came together in 2016 using national best practices to create the New Orleans Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The Campaign takes a collaborative community-wide approach that has engaged more than 60 leaders from government, business, education, families and nonprofits who are committed to working together for the next decade to increase the number of New Orleans students who are reading on grade level by the end of third grade. The Campaign works to improve high-quality early care and education and family supports for children from birth through age four when 90% of brain development occurs, reduce chronic absenteeism so students don't miss critical time in the classroom due to unmet health, transportation and family needs, and ensuring all low-income children have access to high-quality literacy-rich summer programs so they don't fall behind during the critical summer months. 

On September 27th, the Campaign partnered with WYES to host a public forum to hear the platforms of the three top-polling candidates for New Orleans mayor on how they will make sure all children read on grade level by the end of third grade. Candidates spoke of dedicating city funds to high-quality early care and education, creating an Office of Children and Families in City Hall, providing a living wage to all city employees, offering free RTA transportation to all school children, among other ideas. Click here to view the video recording of the forum. View the photo gallery here

For more information and to get involved in the New Orleans Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, visit, follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter.


Hamilton Simons-Jones
Converge for Change