Read On Arizona – Building Momentum Around Early Childhood Literacy
Author: Paul J. Luna, President and CEO
Reading at grade level by the end of third grade is a critical milestone that provides children the pathway for long-term academic success. Research has shown that if a child has not had opportunities to develop a strong social emotional and cognitive foundation early on, reaching reading proficiency before fourth grade becomes a greater challenge. We can’t wait until third grade to address these issues, we must strengthen the early childhood infrastructure to include high quality age appropriate programs and services that promote language acquisition and emergent literacy for young children so that they enter kindergarten ready to succeed and are ultimately reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
Ensuring that all children in Arizona have access to high quality learning environments and are able to read at grade level by the end of third grade must be a priority for our state. This issue is one that will not only affect education, it will have a direct impact on Arizona’s future economic growth and development. It is imperative that each child in the state has strong language and literacy skills from early on to assure they are on the pathway toward success in college and career.
At Helios Education Foundation, we believe in the direct connection between a strong academic foundation in the early years and a student’s ability to complete a postsecondary education. As a result, we invest our knowledge, expertise and resources to develop strategies that will strengthen the early childhood infrastructure and provide opportunities for educators and families to create environments in which children are developing emergent literacy skills.
For example, we partner with various organizations around the state to deliver Raising a Reader programs to families and practitioners throughout Arizona. This program is based on research that shows when families are involved, children’s academic achievement improves. In addition, we are partnering with Chicanos Por La Causa to share the resources offered through Abriendo Puertas, the nation’s first evidence-based parent leadership program specifically for Latino parents. This program works to build the capacity and confidence of parents to be strong and knowledgeable first educators, promote their children’s success and become an integral part of their education process.
We are also proud to be one of a number of partners of Read On Arizona who is committed to a collaborative approach to improving language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children ages birth to eight. This local community approach is critical to ensure that every child receives the right program at the right time. The broad base of support from more than 23 Read On communities throughout the state are reaching hundreds of thousands of families.
As a founding partner of Read On Arizona, Helios Education Foundation greatly values the ongoing work of the community collaboratives in identifying best practices and evidenced-based programs to improve language and literacy outcomes for Arizona’s children. We acknowledge that the goal of having all Arizona children reading at grade level by the end of third grade involves strong public/private partnership inclusive of agencies, philanthropic organizations and committed stakeholders, and Helios will continue to work toward this end goal.