Editor's Note: The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation are partnering on "The Future of the Philanthropic Sector," a special topics course for the school's students during the spring 2020 semester. The course has connected students to The Patterson Foundation's innovative approach to philanthropy and nonprofits in the Sarasota area engaged in the foundation's initiatives through interactive online experiences.

The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) is an initiative supported by The Patterson Foundation (TPF) that focuses on youth literacy. As part of a nationwide movement, SCGLR is a community-wide effort to help children from birth through 3rd grade, especially those from asset-limited families, succeed in life by ensuring they read at their grade level by the end of third grade. The Suncoast region consists of the four following counties in Florida: Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota.

TPF’s role is to utilize its resources to support the local coalitions by assisting with planning, sharing national research and best practices, assisting in securing state and national funding, assisting with communication resources, and fostering community connectivity by promoting that the four counties learn and share with each other.

TPF’s community partners for SCGLR include nonprofits, schools, community organizations, and individuals. Regional United Ways serve as the lead partner for three of the counties, while the Community Foundation of Sarasota County is the lead partner for Sarasota County.

The foundation for a student’s positive school experience primarily starts with a successful transition between reading to learn and learning to read. When this transition is successful, it reduces the likelihood that the student will fall behind early in life. This knowledge has led to SCGLR initiatives and projects that focus on five solution areas proven to ensure early school success:

  • School Readiness – The preparation that takes place in the years between birth and the first day of kindergarten.
  • Attendance – Focuses on decreasing chronic absences.
  • Summer Learning – Focuses on lessening the academic learning loss when students are out of school for the summer and do not engage in educational activities.
  • Family Engagement – Focuses on keeping parents and family members involved as part of the student’s support team.
  • Health Determinants – Focuses on how a healthy development (physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and verbal) impacts a child’s ability to learn.

Last year, each of the four counties in SCGLR saw an increase in 3rd grade reading proficiency (as shown below), a true testament to the importance and success of the program. 

reading proficiency
There are various events and activities that promote SCGLR, including a Summer Reading Challenge, Reach Out and Read, and Pop-Up Neighbor. Of these events, Pop-Up Neighbor is probably the most loved event because it is a surprise event that involves a whole community, in the spirit of being good neighbors.

At these Pop-Up Neighbor events, TPF partners with The Laundry Project and other community groups (a laundromat, food banks, libraries, sports teams, etc.) to provide free, unlimited laundry cleaning for any family/person that shows up at the laundromat that day. In addition, the event offers free food and entertainment. Attendees also receive a free book for all of the children in their family.

I was on a team (along with Kellie Alexander, Haley Bryant, and Pamela Clark) that had to analyze survey results from three different focus groups that consisted of early educators, parents, and kindergarten and administrator educators. We identified common themes and issues that were evident in the responses and gave a presentation that suggested ways to improve communication, collaboration, and access to quality education in order for a student to have a successful transition from Pre-K to Kindergarten. Through this insightful project, I was surprised to learn that lack of communication between parents, teachers, and administrators was one of the main reasons students had trouble transitioning from Pre-K to Kindergarten.

For more information about this initiative, as well as resources and tools, visit the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading website.

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