Belk Foundation Invests in Efforts to Double 3rd Grade Reading Proficiency


“Reading with children, rather than to children”

A grant of $100,000 from The Belk Foundation to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation will dramatically expand the Library’s efforts to address the challenge of third grade reading proficiency through Active Reading training. “Active reading means reading with children, rather than just reading aloud to children,” says Johanna Anderson, Executive Director of The Belk Foundation. “Research has proven that Active Reading builds vocabulary and comprehension, core components to literacy. Parents, caregivers, tutors and volunteers will be empowered with Active Reading training to best support young readers in Mecklenburg County.”

In 2013, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only 40% of Charlotte’s third graders were reading on grade level – important because third grade reading is a strong predictor of both high school graduation and college enrollment. Community initiative Read Charlotte was formed with a bold goal: to double third grade reading outcomes by 2025. Equipping caregivers with the tools of Active Reading is a key strategy to achieve this goal, and as a partner to Read Charlotte the Library has offered 4-part Active Reading workshops for caregivers at Library locations for several months. With this grant, the Library will make these very popular workshops available community-wide upon request.

This summer, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library will hire a grant-funded Active Reading Training Coordinator, who will serve as the community point person for all Active Reading training interest, and oversee a corps of trained volunteers and staff members to fulfill requests. In addition to the existing 4-week session for caregivers and children, the Library and Read Charlotte will develop a 90-minute interactive session geared towards equipping reading buddies and other community volunteers with important skills.

Library CEO Lee Keesler notes, “This grant will be catalytic and transformative. By reaching more caregivers and community volunteers with Active Reading workshops – and connecting them with Library resources – the number of young readers impacted will increase exponentially.” Over one year, it is projected that the Training Coordinator will affect 7,000 caregivers, reading buddies, and non-profit staff throughout Mecklenburg County. Additionally, the Library’s 9500+ annual storytime programs have been adapted to incorporate and demonstrate Active Reading strategies.

“Our partnership with the Library is vital to transforming a bold idea into a community-wide movement. Active Reading has the power to significantly move the needle for children. We are grateful for the support of The Belk Foundation to help us scale these efforts across the County.”

– Munro Richardson, Read Charlotte Executive Director

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