Day two of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s Funder-to-Funder Huddle in Washington D.C. was filled with conversations about collaborations for the benefit of children. In addition to discussions with national thought leaders like Hedy Chang, director of Attendance Works, and Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign, attendees also participated in breakout sessions on a variety of topics.

Debra Jacobs, president and CEO of The Patterson Foundation, and Bill Church, executive editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and southeast regional editor of GateHouse Media, led a session about solutions journalism. During the session, they announced the launch of the SPIRE CoLab, a partnership between journalism and philanthropy to create media that motivate, inform and empower communities to take action on important issues like grade-level reading.

Here are our highlights from day two:

A funder’s role is about more than money. Yes, funder resources are crucial for the success of grade-level reading initiatives, but their role is about so much more than monetary support. Campaign for Grade-Level Reading funders have multiple areas of influences, including communicating, advocating and building community support. Funders have the opportunity to use the power and voice of their boards to shed light on the problem, build consensus around the desired results, and invest time and resources to develop relationships and connections that lead to success.

Every day counts. School attendance is imperative. Chronic absenteeism, missing 10 percent or more of the school year, is a key warning sign for dropping out of high school. In fact, research shows that 9th grade attendance is a better predictor of dropout rates than test scores. It is estimated that 7.5 million children nationwide are chronically absent, which means that they are less likely to read on grade-level by the end of third grade and are more likely to drop out of school. This is why programs like the Attendance Awareness Poster Contest are essential to raise awareness about the importance of school attendance.

Learning begins at birth. The first five years of life are when the brain develops the fastest. Unfortunately, as early as 18 months old, low-income children begin to fall behind in vocabulary development and other skills critical for school success. To be ready for kindergarten, all children need strong family support and access to high-quality, affordable preschool education. Programs like Vroom play an important role in helping parents become brain builders for their children. In addition to learning at home, children who attend high-quality preschools are better prepared for school socially, emotionally, academically.

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