Two-thirds of Georgia’s children are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences for all Georgians, because low achievement in reading affects our economy, our safety, and our health.
The end of third grade marks the critical time when children shift from learning to read to reading to learn. Children unable to make this shift face serious barriers for future learning, because they can’t grasp half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum and beyond, including math and science. As a result, these children fall even further behind.
Children who can’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to experience poor health, have discipline problems, and become teen parents. They are also four times more likely to drop out of high school. As adults, they’re more likely to spend time in prison, struggle with unemployment, and face shorter life expectancies.
Georgia has struggled for years to improve our reading proficiency rate. The cost to our state is significant, and the cost to our children is incalculable. Everyone agreed—we needed a new approach.
Unwilling to yield any longer, the governor and first lady came together with Georgia’s leaders in 2013 to take on third-grade reading proficiency—not only as an education issue, but as an urgent priority for all who care about children’s health and well-being.
The Solution: Get Georgia Reading
Partners from across the state found new ways to connect and take action with a shared expectation:
Get Georgia Reading Campaign partners developed a clearly defined common agenda to create the conditions for every child in Georgia to become a proficient reader by the end of third grade. Find out more about the process used by our partners to create the Campaign’s common agenda, which consists of four research-based pillars that work together to provide a platform for success.
Get Georgia Reading’s Four Campaign Pillars
- 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.
A Data-Driven Approach to Get Georgia Reading
Get Georgia Reading partners recognized that literacy is much more than an education issue. Low achievement in reading is a systemic crisis that calls for innovative solutions to complex issues. We learned that our efforts to change long-term outcomes and consequences must begin early—long before children enter kindergarten. We looked at some of the root causes for why a child might not be reading.
This effort encompassed early brain development and the power of verbal interactions with infants and toddlers, school attendance—both in preschool and grade school—summer learning loss, and the influence of health on all aspects of early learning and development.
Our investigations revealed that far too many children in Georgia lack access to quality health care, housing, nutrition, and early care and learning services and supports. And that far too many children experience the trauma of stress and violence in their homes and neighborhoods, inhibiting their ability to learn and grow.
Children cannot learn when they are hungry, sick, or scared.
Abandoning Conventional Approaches
State leaders have already begun to use the four pillars to challenge conventional approaches, establish new cross-sector collaborations, and support collective action in communities throughout the state.
Strategies for supporting language acquisition, improving early learning and elementary school environments, and increasing alignment of curriculum and teaching methods from preschool through third grade are just some examples of this new way of working to get all children on the path to literacy.
Let’s Get Georgia Reading
Nearly 1 million children under age 9 live in Georgia. The only way we can reach them all is if communities across the state join us in this effort. Local ownership and innovation is one of the Campaign’s guiding principles.
We want to help communities identify and address the needs of children in their area, and then apply the four pillars to build on their existing resources.
The four pillars provide a new way of looking at early literacy and learning during the first eight years of life, opening the doors to conversations that identify gaps and where to locate resources to fill those gaps. Joining the Campaign is about taking existing efforts and infusing them with this new approach.
Getting all of Georgia’s children to read takes more than good schools, more than great teachers, and more than loving parents. It takes all of us working together. We hope you and your community partners will use the pillars to better support children in achieving reading proficiency and work to Get Georgia Reading.