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Birmingham Joins Nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading


April Odom

Mayor’s Office of Public Information


Mayor William Bell and Local Agencies Commit to Boosting Early Literacy


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (April 29, 2016) – Birmingham is taking a big step toward improving student success by joining the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), a nationwide movement to increase early reading proficiency.

“Reading is critical to success on every level.  Our hope is that boosting early literacy will allow our children to have earlier and more sustained success in school and beyond,” said Mayor William Bell.

National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (80%of whom are from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives. According to the results of the 2015 ACT Aspire reading assessment, only 35% of Central Alabama’s 3rd graders were reading on grade level.

“Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and success later in life, said Beth Wilder, president and executive director of The Literacy Council. “It marks the transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’.”

To move the needle, the Literacy Council is leading a multi-agency coalition to address the three indicators of reading success: kindergarten readiness, attendance, and summer learning loss. Working within the framework of the United Way Bold Goals Education Council and with partners such as the SAIL Initiative (Summer Adventures in Learning), superintendents from all 21 school districts, and the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, these agencies and organizations will be laser-focused on improving reading outcomes for third graders.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading takes a two-generation approach by supporting students and parents, giving families access to the tools and opportunities they need to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

“We are thrilled to welcome the newest members of our growing network of communities,” said

Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Their commitment to this vital mission comes at a critical time when nearly half of the children in the U.S. under the age of five (the years of greatest brain development) live in extreme poverty. Together, we will do what it takes to ensure our nation’s most vulnerable children have the support and opportunities they need to thrive.”

Membership in the GLR Communities Network gives Birmingham access to experts and policymakers focused on early literacy, assistance in addressing the challenges that keep many children from learning to read, and opportunities to share and learn best practices from more than 240 communities across the country.

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About The Literacy Council

In 1991, the United Way of Central Alabama, the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, and the Junior League of Birmingham identified a need to support those battling adult illiteracy in Central Alabama. Together, they formed The Literacy Council.  The Literacy Council’s vision is one of a community in which each person achieves his or her maximum literacy potential. We work to achieve this vision through our mission to develop, strengthen and support Basic Literacy and English for Speakers of Other Languages services in Blount, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby, and Walker Counties. For more information about The Literacy Council visit, and you can follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@literacy_update).

About the Campaign for Grade-­Level Reading

Launched in May 2010, the Campaign for Grade-­Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-­income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, the campaign as grown to include more than 200 communities, representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 2,100 local organizations (including 130 United Ways and 250 state and local funders. To learn more, visit and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.