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Ready, Set, Read Rowan wants to ensure future grads are well-prepared

As high school seniors head toward graduation, there’s a group focussed on ensuring Rowan County’s youngest residents get a good start on their path toward a diploma and beyond.

Ready, Set, Read … Rowan is an umbrella organization for agencies and initiatives that address children’s literacy, from the Appleseed project to Rowan Public Library.

The group’s goal is to ensure Rowan students can read at grade level by third grade, a pivotal time in a child’s development, and to help improve reading and communication skills for people of all ages.

“Literacy starts at birth and runs all the way through adulthood,” Jeanie Moore, volunteer facilitator, said at a recent Ready, Set, Read Rowan meeting of agency leaders. “If we don’t have literate adults, we’re not likely to have literate children.”

The group wants to foster a culture that values childhood literacy.

Organizers are compiling a list of all literacy-related services available in Rowan, a task that has been a “journey of discovery,” Moore said. There are more initiatives than many people realize.

Once that survey is complete and organizers have a clear idea of the services offered, Ready, Set, Read Rowan will attempt to identify gaps, connect the dots and advocate for their efforts.

Kindergarten readiness is one area of emphasis. Smart Start Rowan is trying to determine the level of fit between what childcare centers are teaching and what is on the kindergarten readiness assessment. The public school system may do a survey with families of kindergartners to see which programs they know about and what services they believe they need.

Among the agencies identified so far are Rowan Literacy Council, Pregnancy Support Center, Salisbury Police Department (think “Little Free Libraries”), Rowan County Health Department, Head Start, Rowan Reading Association, Families First, Rowan County Home School Association, Communities in Schools, Rowan-Salisbury School System, Tsunami Development Literacy Progam, Smart Start Rowan, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Rowan Public Library, Altrusa and Appleseed.

There are many faith-based initiatives, too.

And there are programs that have grown out of partnerships. For example, as Rowan-Salisbury Schools food trucks that deliver meals to neighborhoods in need will be followed by the Rowan Public Library’s book mobile. Students receiving lunch and breakfast from the school system will also be able to check out books and stay for library programs. Trucks that aren’t tailed by the book mobile will carry books of their own, thanks to a $1,000 donations from the Real Estate Group.

Jennifer Flynn, who has been instrumental in starting Ready, Set, Read Rowan, says the group is trying to find seed funds for data research, marketing and a staff person. The group also hopes to get an in-kind donation of office space.

They also are working to become a member of the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading behind that network is a national collaborative effort to ensure that more low-income children succeed in school and graduate ready for college, a career and active citizenship.

The national group’s Campaign 2020 goal is to double the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently by the end of third grade in 12 states or more. It wants to build sustainable momentum to close the children’s achievement gap with their peers.

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