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Education

A St. Louis Literacy Group Wants To Promote Reading In High-Poverty Areas In The Region

Children at Urban Sprouts Child Development Center read books together to help increase their reading levels.
Turn the Page STL
Children at Urban Sprouts Child Development Center read books together to help increase their reading levels.

A St. Louis literacy organization wants to help improve third grade reading proficiency rates in high-poverty areas and to give children access to reading tools this summer.

Turn the Page STL is teaming up with libraries, institutions and recreational centers to provide access to books, virtual learning, games and other activities to keep children in high-poverty areas reading during the summer. Participants include St. Louis Public Library, Gateway Region YMCA, Barnes-Jewish Youth and Outreach Development, Ferguson Municipal Library, United 4 Children and University City Public Library.

Children need to read at grade level by the third grade to be successful in school and in life, said Lisa Greening, program director for Turn the Page STL.

“People do what makes them feel good. If you can't read, that does not make you feel good, and the further you get in school, the more complicated material becomes,” Greening said. “That's why making sure the kids are reading proficiently by third grade is a must.”

Turn the Page STL is a local chapter of the national reading organization National Campaign for Grade Level Reading. It aims to improve literacy rates for children in Promise Zones, high-poverty areas that receive assistance from the federal government and local leaders on reducing crime, improving health and educational opportunities and boosting investment. St. Louis Promise Zones include parts of north St. Louis and north St. Louis County.

From the group’s research, on average about 20% of children in the St. Louis region’s seven lowest-performing school districts were able to pass the third grade reading proficiency test, Greenings said.

To help increase children’s reading levels and encourage them to read throughout the summer, St. Louis Public Libraries launched a picture book walk in the West End neighborhood. Children can read a story on signposts while walking.

Libraries can improve literacy rates in low-income areas by giving children access to reading materials and meeting them where they are, said Joe Monahan, St. Louis Public Library youth services manager.

“We know it's been a hugely challenging year for kids and their caregivers,” Monahan said. “But we want to offer kind of a consistent, structured way for kids to engage, to activate their brains in another way throughout the summer.”

The Nine Network is also participating in the summer reading campaign and is providing an online resource to help educators and caregivers make reading exciting for children. The St. Louis County Library is offering a summer reading book club that awards prizes based on the amount of time spent reading. The Missouri History Museum wants children to explore its history clubhouse, and Blueprint4Summer STL provides over 400 summer camps for children with transportation and scholarship assistance.

Parents can visit TurnthePageSTL for more information on summer reading programs.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

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