Grade-level Reading by Third Grade

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Kids who are reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to graduate high school on time.

Up to third grade, kids learn to read. After third grade, they read to learn. When it comes to literacy, third grade is where the rubber meets the road. A student who is reading at grade level by third grade is significantly more likely to succeed in later grades and graduate high school on time.

Unfortunately, one in four kids in our region is not reading proficiently by third grade. In areas of high poverty, the third grade reading SOL pass rate is as low as 61 percent, compared to the state average of 75.6 percent. If we are to build a better Richmond and Petersburg region, we must work together to improve these numbers.

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3rd Grade Reading: By the Numbers

Standardized tests measure student learning and are used as a predictor of future performance. Scores can be used to compare school systems, to determine resource allocation and to track individual school improvements over time. Third grade is a pivotal point for reading. In grades four and beyond, children encounter many new challenges and are expected to have basic reading skills. Reading below grade level is the overwhelming reason students are assigned to special education, given long-term remedial services or are not promoted to the next grade.

In 2017, 75.2% of our region’s third graders passed the reading SOL test.

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Children missing more than 10% of the days in a school year (about 18 days for a 180-day school year) are much more likely to struggle to read at grade level by third grade. Chronic absenteeism creates and widens achievement gaps throughout elementary, middle and high school. Students from low-income families are more likely to be chronically absent and the impact of absenteeism on their academic performance is twice as great as it is on their more affluent peers.

In the 2015-16 school year, 7.1% of our region’s elementary school students (6,058 students) missed more than 10% of school days.

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What We Do

United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg understands the key factors that drive third grade literacy: parent success, school readiness, attendance and summer learning. We work with programs that focus on these areas to make a real, sustainable impact on elementary literacy.

  • We convene the Greater Richmond Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which partners with school districts, nonprofits, corporations and other organizations to collectively increase third grade reading proficiency across the Greater Richmond region.
  • We serve as the backbone of the Petersburg City and Schools Partnership, which works to create the climate and conditions for every child to succeed by providing a sustainable, coordinated system of supports and access.
  • We host Reading for Resilience events, which bring together volunteers to read to children and help them develop emotional regulation and literacy skills needed for success in school.

Spotlight on Success

We convene the Literacy Collaborative Action Network, which brings together regional literacy specialists, librarians, K-12 educators and administrators. Together, we created Family Literacy Night, where parents learn how to interpret their child’s kindergarten literacy scores and gain strategies for reading with their child at home.

How You Can Help

  • Donate to United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. Let us know you want your gift to help increase third grade reading proficiency.
  • Volunteer. United Way volunteers read to students and create literacy kits for teachers and students. Send us an email to get involved, or visit our Events page to see our existing opportunities.