Duval County Public Schools launched its Read It Forward Jax initiative today at Matthew Gilbert Middle School, and the energy in the room was palpable.
Perhaps it was the dozens of Matthew Gilbert students chanting, "Read It Forward, Jax!" with Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals. Maybe it was the standing ovation given Mayor-Elect Alvin Brown after he pledged that his appearance there was "not a photo op," but a commitment to early literacy. Or it might have been incoming Chamber of Commerce President Hugh Greene's announcement that St. Vincent's Health Care, Baptist Health and Acosta Sales and Marketing have all already signed on as business partners in the effort.
The initiative aims to bring together city, business, faith based, and non-profit leaders to improve reading proficiency among Jacksonville students. You can find out more about it and how you can get involved at www.readitforwardjax.com. You can read a few news stories about the initiative at Jacksonville.com, Action News and News 4 Jax.
In support of the initiative, the Jacksonville Public Education Fund on Monday released a policy briefing on Duval students' reading proficiency. It found that third grade, when students first take the FCAT, is a critical tipping point.
For students to stay on grade level in reading throughout their school careers, they must be above grade level in third grade, the report found. And among those who were not proficient, the deficits were most likely to be addressed in fourth or fifth grade.
You can read the full report here, and read a story published in The Florida Times-Union about the study here.
The takeaway message is this: Focus on literacy in children's early years is key. And it will take a community effort to achieve that.