Early literacy: Why it’s important and how you can help

Feb 22, 2019 | News

Two out of three Nashville third-graders are not reading on grade level. Studies have shown that if children cannot read on grade level by the end of third grade, they are five times more likely to drop out of high school.

“Third grade is the turning point when children make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn,” says Leslie Watt, United Way’s Director of Community Impact for Education. “If they aren’t reading well by this point, they aren’t going to be able to read their social studies texts, understand their math problems or follow directions on their science experiment. It affects everything.”

It’s a big problem, but you can help. Access to books is key to helping students improve their literacy skills and move to the next reading level.

Through our upcoming Level Up for Literacy Day of Action, United Way’s goal is to build 100 libraries for classrooms at Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools elementary schools serving children in need. These are schools with low library circulation rates, meaning students aren’t frequently checking out and taking home books from their school library. The majority serve an economically challenged community with low—20 percent or less—literacy proficiency.

That’s where classroom libraries come in. Classroom libraries are welcoming spaces where students can read independently or browse a vast, rich collection of books. Many of our students don’t have access to books at home. In fact, More than 3,500 MNPS students are without a stable place to call home, so it’s critical that our schools are providing an expansive assortment of books so that students may select books specific to their interests.

Research shows that classroom libraries increase student reading time by 60 percent. Books help students become critical thinkers, analytical readers and informed citizens. Even just reading 15 minutes a day shows significant accelerated reading gains.

Together, we can provide 8,000 more books to our most under-resourced students.