Reading Success by 4th Grade to Reboot, Re-Launch in Early 2023
Springfield—The nationally recognized Reading Success by 4th Grade (RS4G) has announced that the initiative will be re-launched in early 2023 with the goal to deepen engagement of community partners and families in boosting reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade.
Launched over ten years ago at The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, for the past three years the RS4G initiative has continued its work in partnership with the Springfield City Library. Housing of the initiative at the City Library occurred at a time when the pandemic required more virtual learning. With in-person early education resuming, organizers indicated that now is a good time to assess area needs around early literacy.
For the time being RS4G will be housed again at the Davis Foundation. In the coming months, the Foundation will gather community input, modernize the initiative’s strategy and approach to improving early learning literacy rates and outcomes, and will formally relaunch in early 2023.
According to Paul Belsito, Executive Director of The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, “We celebrate the continued successes of RS4G in creating a culture of early reading and early learning in Springfield, especially through the convening and involvement of early educators, Springfield Public Schools, early education organizations, the media and business communities, and most importantly, parents and families.
“The Foundation will continue to support this important work as we modernize our strategy and lead on this vital issue of reading proficiency by the end of 3rd grade, and look forward to the next phase of the RS4G initiative.”
RS4G began as an outgrowth of The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation-inspired Cherish Every Child initiative, and has primarily been focused on improvement of 3rd grade reading scores. Mountains of research indicate that children who read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade are less likely to drop out of school, more likely to graduate and go on to college or be successful in vocational training and have better economic success long term.
The RS4G initiative has been recognized in 2012 and 2017 as an All-America City by the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR). RS4G is also a finalist for the recognition this year.
Recently, Springfield was named a Pacesetter community by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading–one of 18 communities nationally–for exemplifying extraordinary vision and best practices in early school success. Springfield was chosen as a Pacesetter for RS4G’s work to equip Springfield families with more than 30,000 books in 2021, and for RS4G’s inaugural Building Bridges Conference, which convened more than 500 of the city’s early educators virtually. Springfield has previously received seven Pacesetter Honors by CGLR, in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and 2019.
While RS4G has had success in boosting reading proficiency in Springfield schools, the level of proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade still hovers around 40%, and virtual learning during the pandemic may have adversely impacted progress in reading proficiency.
The current RS4G engagements include a family literacy initiative, support for Out of School Time programming, a School Readiness Working Group, an Early Education/Readiness Scorecard developed by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, annual Summer Reading initiatives, various media engagements, public book giveaways, support for Story Walks and Book Nooks, social media engagement utilizing #413Reads and the RS4G website, and business outreach that includes Pride Stores.
The initiative also convened Early Literacy Summits and two Building Bridges professional development conferences–the first and only city-wide conference for early educators working with children birth to kindergarten. The full-day virtual conferences convened nearly 550 early educators and featured Keynote addresses by national early education experts, more than 34 different presenters in the field of early education, and remarks from local and state elected officials.
Belsito said an affiliated community initiative, the 413Families/Familias texting program will continue unabated now and also into the next iteration of RS4G.
The 413Families texting program was launched in 2016 as a collaboration between several community organizations to provide Springfield and area families with young children (birth to 8 years) with reading and parenting tips and resources, information about events, giveaways such as tickets to community events, bookstore and Pride Stores gift cards, and more. Families have the option to receive messages in English or Spanish, and today the program has nearly 4,000 families opted-in to receive 1-2 messages per week. In 2018, the program expanded to Holyoke families. Partner organizations include the Springfield Museums, Springfield City Library, Home City Families, New England Public Media, Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative, Baystate New Beginnings, and RS4G. More information is available at www.413families.com.