Bright Spots are written and produced by the Campaign to showcase the work in Grade-Level Reading communities to make progress on school readiness, school attendance and summer learning by 2016. Continue reading below or download a PDF version.

Children in 22 counties across Georgia benefited from a new targeted effort in summer 2014 providing free meals and literacy activities at local libraries. The effort — which tackled a critical unmet need — illustrates the power of having a statewide grade-level reading campaign with 80 partners, public and private, working toward a shared goal: by 2020, all Georgia children will be on a path to reading proficiency by the end of third grade. Currently, nearly two-thirds of Georgia fourth graders miss that mark.  

“Without all those partners at the table, I don’t think we could have gotten this going so quickly,” says Arianne Weldon, director of the campaign, known as Get Georgia Reading. 

Because partners spent 2013 forging a common agenda and shared way of working, they were better equipped to identify areas underserved for meals and engage cross-agency, public-private partnerships to meet children’s literacy and nutrition needs, including combating summer learning loss.  

The Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning worked with the Georgia Department of Education to identify federal funding through the USDA Summer Food Service Program. Local sponsors delivered meals at libraries, which provided literacy activities, supported by the Georgia Public Library Service.  

Plans are underway for Georgia’s Public Health Department to provide vaccines next summer at the libraries to address another issue — children who miss days at the start of the school year because they have not been immunized.  

“The campaign’s role is about bringing together unprecedented partnerships to look at issues from a population-based perspective rather than a project-based perspective,” says Weldon. “This involves systems change by getting folks out of their silos and acting less on their own so they can pursue collective opportunities.”  

Although Georgia’s campaign has been producing winning efforts since 2010, Get Georgia Reading’s new common agenda and new website were unveiled in August 2014 with an impressive gathering of partners at Georgia Public Broadcasting, a partner based in Atlanta.

The common agenda’s four pillars are:

Language Nutrition: All children receive language rich adult-child interactions, as critical for brain development as healthy food is for physical growth.

Access: All children and their families — all year and every day — have access to supportive services for healthy development and success in early childhood and early elementary education. 

Productive Learning Climate: social-emotional development, school attendance, engagement and, ultimately, student success.  

Teacher Preparation and Effectiveness: All educators provide high-quality, evidence-informed instruction and effective learning experiences tailored to the needs of each child, regardless of background.

Beyond content, the partners also developed a shared approach to the implementation of efforts that includes a commitment to local ownership and innovation, family engagement, seamless continuity and alignment.

To produce this agenda, the campaign undertook a learning process in 2013, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which has longstanding ties and work in Atlanta, home of UPS. At an Innovation Forum, modeled after the idea-sharing gatherings known as TED Talks, speakers explored GLR-related issues, cutting-edge research and effective practices.

In the fall, they went on “learning journeys” — site visits to learn about effective practices and how to approach challenges from a new perspective. In November, there was an all-day session to hammer out the agenda that was shared at the August 2014 gathering.

The event’s many speakers included Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal, top state agency administrators, Georgia’s Teacher of the Year and the state PTA president. Among a group of third graders attending was Luke Valladares, who kicked off the gathering by reading aloud from a book and then got right to the point. “I like reading because I can use my imagination. But too many kids my age in Georgia can’t read this book and that’s not fair,” he told the crowd. “My friends and I thank you all for working together to get all kids reading.”


For more information, contact Arianne Weldon at 678-488-7572 or AWeldon@atlantacivicsite.org

Photos: Get Georgia Reading; Publication Date: Summer 2014

 

To nominate a community to be featured as a Bright Spot, please contact Betsy Rubiner at brubiner@gradelevelreading.net.

Betsy Rubiner is a writer and senior consultant with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

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