Wake Up And Read: Pacesetter in Youth Literacy

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. Since its launch, the CGLR has grown to include more than 300 communities, representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 3,800 local organizations and 250 state and local funders.  The three pillars of the CGLR are school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning retention.  Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and career success because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

WAKE Up and Read (WUAR) launched in 2012 as the Wake County affiliate of the CGLR. United behind a shared belief that literacy is a right, not a privilege, WUAR is focused on ensuring that all children are reading on grade‐level by the end of third grade. This unique community coalition includes education, civic, philanthropic, and business leaders from across Wake County, all working together to help every child develop the necessary skills for success in school and beyond.

In 2014 and 2016 WAKE Up and Read was honored as a Pacesetter by the CGLR for exemplary work in eliminating barriers faced by children from low-income families on the path to becoming proficient readers.  In 2017, the National Civic League and the CGLR partnered to recognize communities that have made measurable progress for low-income children on the key drivers of early reading success; Wake County was named a finalist for the All-America City Award.

WAKE Up and Read’s successes include an increase in school readiness for entering Wake kindergarteners in Title I schools.  In 2014-2015, just 22% of Wake County incoming kindergarten students in Title I schools were at or above proficiency in reading, and by 2016-2017, that percentage increased to 34%. WAKE Up and Read, along with other numerous agencies and organizations in Wake County who support young children and families, affected this change by offer learning opportunities for families through targeted messaging and activities. Additionally, chronic absence among K-3 students in Title I schools supported by WUAR decreased from 9.5% in 2014-15 to 7.5% in 2015-16.  Summer learning retention in these schools also demonstrated gains among first and second-grade students with summer learning losses decreasing from 22% in 2015 to 10% in 2016.

Even in Wake County, many children have no books in their homes, and research shows access to books is key to promoting literacy. The WUAR annual book drive addresses summer learning loss by helping children build their home libraries. The book drive also provides opportunities to reach out to parents with literacy strategies they can use with their children at home. In 2017, 7,464 children each chose 10 books to take home and read during the summer. Overall, the book drive collected over 114,000 books and served 10 of the county’s most economically disadvantaged elementary schools, along with 17 neighboring childcare centers in nearby areas.

WUAR is blanketing the community with the message of “Read! Talk! Play! School Every Day!” This is occurring through social media (Facebook and Twitter), posters, bookmarks, community presentations to civic, faith, and business partners and community events. Messaging is also supported through the Ready, Set, School partnership between Marbles Kids Museum and the Wake County Public Library, Reach Out and Read partnership with pediatric practices and clinics, and partnerships with 17 early care and education centers that serve high need populations. We are also working with barbers in high need communities to create reading areas in their barber shops and asking them to be encouragers of reading with their youngest clients.

To meet parents where they are, WUAR entered into a partnership with a texting program developed at Stanford University called Ready4K in 2016.  Parents of children ages birth to kindergarten can sign up to receive three text messages each week. These messages are available in English and Spanish and provide tips about preparing children for school, ways to promote literacy, the importance of school attendance, and more. Ready4K has been shown to have a positive effect on literacy and on improving student performance by two to three months.

Partner organizations have leveraged in‐kind resources that already exist in Wake County to work collaboratively.  The major funders for WUAR are Triangle Community Foundation, United Way of the Greater Triangle, and most recently the Duke Energy Foundation. These funders are actively involved in WUAR leadership and activities, and are doing what they can to broaden community involvement and impact of the coalition’s work. We invite you to join us in making a difference for children across Wake County.  For more information contact Elizabeth Santana at esantana@wcpss.net or 919-694-8755.