Fort Worth Reading Initiative Sees Progress

by Meg Hemmerle

Children should be reading to learn, not learning to read — that’s the mantra of Read Fort Worth, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to have 100 percent of third-graders reading at the right grade level by 2025.

Before Read Fort Worth was launched in 2016, only 30 percent of third graders in Fort Worth were reading at the right age level. According to the organization’s recently released Community Achievement Scorecard, the number went up to 34 percent in May 2017.

Read Fort Worth’s primary metric of reading achievement is based on the data from the Texas STAAR test, which is given in May.

The privately funded organization is made up of a 12-member executive team that includes Mayor Betsy Price, FWISD Superintendent Dr. Kent P. Scribner and BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matthew K. Rose. Read Fort Worth is also supported by 19 foundations and businesses ranging from the City of Fort Worth to the Miles Foundation. Kristen Sullivan is executive director.

“This collective impact organization is different because it is a partnership between the city and the school district, and it is rare for a mayor and superintendent to partner to drive lasting change for reading achievement,” said Sullivan. “We’re grateful for the leadership in Mayor Price and Dr. Scribner.”

So why third grade? Studies show that 75 percent of students who struggle with reading in third grade never catch up and are four times more likely to drop out of high school. The year 2025 has meaning too — children who were born in 2017 will be entering third grade that year.

“If children have a strong foundation of early literacy skills and are proficient readers by third grade, then they are more likely to succeed,” said Sullivan. “Up until third grade you're learning to read, and after third grade you have to read to learn. In fourth grade, kids start doing word problems in math and science, so they really need to be able to read well to succeed in school.”

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