State Senator Art Haywood kicked off what he called a “reading revolution” on Wednesday when he announced the launch of two new READ! by 4th sites in Northwest Philadelphia.
The READ! By 4th program is a citywide effort coordinated by the Free Library of Philadelphia in collaboration with more than 50 partners at 100 sites across the city. The program is designed to help more children entering fourth grade to read with proficiency by 2020.
Haywood expressed that his personal success is the result of his family’s strong background in education, and he wishes the same for today’s generation.
READ! by 4th is supporting summer reading programs at Dorothy Emanuel and Simons Recreation Centers. The programs began on July 6 and will last six weeks. Tutors from AARP Experience Corps will use the local branches of the Free Library to work with children and their parents to foster what they hope will be a lifelong love for books.
“Reading opens doors to higher education and self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, most elementary school students in the Philadelphia neighborhoods of my district read below grade level. What our communities need is a reading revolution that gives these children freedom through reading,” said Haywood.
The Pennsylvania System of School Assessment began a project to evaluate the quality of education in January, and has now concluded that the majority of third grade students in Philadelphia public schools do not read proficiently.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children who are not proficient readers by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than those who are. The United Nations reports that higher levels of literacy increase self-esteem, empowerment and political participation.
“We must work together as a community to address this reading crisis,” Haywood said, joined by representatives from both recreation centers, the Free Library and AARP Experience Corps. “Reading plays a critical role in building our communities. Our communities must play a more active role in building reading.”