Grade-Level Reading

A child who cannot read by the start of the 4th grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school and will likely remain behind his or her peers in subsequent school years. The ability to read is critical to a child’s success in school, life-long earning potential, and their ability to contribute to the nation’s economy. That is why it is imperative that we ensure every child is reading on grade level at this critical stage by implementing proven solutions and establishing early interventions.


  • Literacy proficiency by the end of third grade is perhaps the single most essential educational milestone. [1]

  • Students who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers, and a student who is low-income and cannot read at grade level by the end of third grade is 13 times less likely to graduate from high school with their peers. [2]

  • Outside of the academic consequences, struggling readers are also far more likely to end up in the criminal justice system; at least a third of youth in juvenile correction facilities have a specific learning disability. [3]

  • 40 percent of state, federal, and local prisoners have not completed high school. [4]

  • Research shows that investing in literacy coaches with the expertise to support teachers to deliver literacy instruction that aligns with essential practices can be a highly effective in-school literacy support. [5]

  • Research also shows that evidence-based, resource-intensive, classroom-based, and home-based summer reading programs can support students’ literacy development. [6]

  • Research indicates that summer vacation may have detrimental effects on reading proficiency for many students, particularly students growing up in poverty. Various research studies show that students can lose one to three months of their school-year learning over the summer. [7]


Our ultimate goal is for 100% of students to be reading on grade level. However, public education groups and supporters have created a Progress Meter to break down that ultimate goal into attainable milestones. The goal right now is for 72% of our 3rd graders to read proficiently by 2030, however, we are currently at only 44%.

As we mentioned in the previous post about questions to ask candidates this election cycle, literacy intervention is a key topic that is important to address.

We know this crisis isn’t going to go away if we just choose to ignore it. We need real action to turn things around.

Low reading rates present a major obstacle for the academic achievement of students and a significant problem for future economic success.

In the last couple of years, we’ve made some progress in this area. For example, we helped pass HB 2520, a bill to strengthen existing reading policies.

We also helped secure additional funding for students in poverty. They will receive $12 million in targeted early literacy funding–up from $8 million.

Building on our past work in Arizona, the next phase is Every Child Reads (ECR).

This is a research-based family engagement program that empowers parents with the skills and knowledge they need to support their child's learning and prepare them to succeed after graduation.

We work with districts to establish a team of parents within a designated school site who can support the programming and participate in a series of workshops and visibility activities and grow these activities within a school. ECR is designed to help parents and guardians understand the importance of and develop a plan to increase–both personally and actively across their school–enrollment in quality kindergarten programs and reading at home.

However, we are not doing this alone. There are great organizations that we’re proud to serve alongside. Rebecca Gau, is the co-chair of AZECA and is on the leadership team of Read on Phoenix, an affiliate of Read on Arizona. These organizations work at the grassroots level to support early literacy activities. 


Stand for Children’s Early Literacy Policy Brief
Substantially increase kindergarten to 3rd grade literacy proficiency in each Stand affiliate state working on early literacy through evidence-based supports and practices to improve early literacy.

Read on Arizona
Read On Arizona is a statewide, public/private partnership of agencies, philanthropic organizations, and community stakeholders working to improve literacy outcomes. Their website is an excellent source of information. Their data tools are second to none and an excellent resource to discover how the reading crisis is impacting different districts. Their website is also full of practical resources for parents. As an organization, we conduct trainings with parents in school districts on the importance of quality kindergarten experiences and Smart Talk.

The What Works Clearinghouse
The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) is an excellent resource that reviews research on programs, products, practices, and policies in education. When searching for evidence-based instruction and interventions, this is an excellent place to begin.

Social and Emotional Learning in Elementary English Language Arts Instruction
The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) compiled examples of SEL instruction in Elementary classrooms. This document has examples of lessons, activities, and teaching practices for elementary classrooms looking to incorporate SEL in their literacy instruction.

Just Read, Florida!
This is an example of a statewide early literacy initiative with promising evidence of its effectiveness. This website includes reading plans and parent, educator, and coaching resources.

Michigan Early Literacy Initiative is home to a series of resources created to guide leaders and educators on the Essential Instructional Practices for Early Literacy. An executive summary of the initiative and educator support network can be found here.

[1] Beach, K. D., & O’Connor, R. E. (2015). Early Response-to-Intervention Measures and Criteria as Predictors of Reading Disability in the Beginning of Third Grade. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 48(2), 196–223. :

[2] Hernandez, D. J. (2011). Double jeopardy: How third-grade reading skills and poverty influence high school graduation. Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, Maryland. :

[3] Quinn, M. M., Rutherford, R. B., Leone, P. E., Osher, D. M., & Poirier, J. M. (2005). Youth with disabilities in juvenile corrections: A national survey. Exceptional Children, 71(3), 339-345. :

[4] US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (2003)

[5] Carlisle, J. F., & Berebitsky, D. (2011). Literacy coaching as a component of professional development. Reading and Writing, 24(7), 773-800; Elish-Piper, L., & L'Allier, S. K. (2010). Exploring the relationship between literacy coaching and student reading achievement in grades K–1. Literacy Research and Instruction, 49(2), 162-174. 1. DOWNLOADED; 2. NEEDS TO BE ORDERED THROUGH LIBRARY

[6] Bean, R. M., Draper, J. A., Hall, V., Vandermolen, J., & Zigmond, N. (2010). Coaches and coaching in Reading First schools: A reality check. The Elementary School Journal, 111(1), 87-114.

[7] Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational research, 66(3), 227-268; Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 386-431; Atteberry, A., & McEachin, A. (2016). School’s out: Summer learning loss across grade levels and school contexts in the United States today. In Alexander, K., Pitcock, S., & Boulay, M. (Eds). Summer learning and summer learning loss, (pp. 35-53). New York: Teachers College Press.

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