Kent Co, MI

The Community Literacy Initiative in Kent County provides leadership to a consortium of twenty-five partners in Kent County as part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The Campaign focuses on school readiness, summer learning, parental engagement, reducing chronic absence and community support as solutions to improve third grade reading.

Most children learn to read by the end of third grade; after that point, they read to learn. Children who are not reading at grade level by the third grade are at risk of not graduating from high school, not attending college, and potentially becoming a low literate adult.

The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth reported that one in six children who were not reading proficiently in the third grade did not graduate from high school on time.  According to Michigan Department of Education MEAP reading scores, Kent ISD school districts have approximately one in three third grade students who are not reading at grade level.

The Community Literacy Initiative (CLI) recently released a literacy report that focuses on the importance of children reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.  The report has been a top priority for CLI over the past year. The Community Literacy Initiative hopes to use the literacy report as a means to create a community conversation on third grade reading and improving literacy for all ages.

As a community, we have a civic and moral obligation to ensure each and every child achieves their academic potential,” said Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent, Teresa Weatherall Neal.

To view the full report, go to

The Community Literacy Initiative will host the second Community Literacy Summit on Wednesday, September 25 at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center, 1607 Robinson Avenue.  The Community Literacy Summit seeks to develop a community that is 100% literate by helping participants learn about, understand, and implement best practices to overcome barriers to literacy.

The Summit will feature workshops on age specific literacy, working with schools, English as a Second Language (ESL) and many other topics related to literacy.  Hedy Chang, director at Attendance Works, will deliver the keynote address.  Attendance Works is a national and state level initiative aimed at advancing student success by addressing chronic absence.

Over 30 million adults in the United States cannot read or write better than a third grader.  The low literacy rate of adults in Grand Rapids is 22% and 14% in Kent County.  Children who do not read at a proficient level by the third grade are more likely to drop out of high school, not attend college, and become low literate adults.  Studies have shown that adults with low literacy skills are more likely to live in poverty, be unemployed, and suffer from poor health conditions.

One community member who has made a difference for her children and her community is Monica Zavala. Zavala emigrated from Mexico 15 years ago, but she didn’t become fluent in English until her oldest son Emmanuel was in third grade. By the time he was at that level, all of his homework was in English and she saw the need for improving her own language skills.

Zavala has since become a fluent English speaker and never gives up on improving her own literacy or her children’s education. As a Parent Action Leader (PALS) at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary, sometimes the other parents will ask her how she has time to be so involved.

She responds to this question the same way every time she is asked: “Sometimes I think I’m too tired, but when I see my kids, I think, ‘that’s my life. I do this because I love them.’”

You need to be a member of The Huddle to add comments!

Join The Huddle


  • The Community Literacy Summit sounds interesting - and enjoyed learning about Monica Zavala! Thanks for sharing. (I also enjoyed your webinar presentation last month on your attendance work, including the involvement of local police in the effort.)

    Betsy Rubiner, GLR Network's community manager


This reply was deleted.