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National Movement for Children’s Literacy Converges on Philadelphia

Thursday, July 19, 2018

 Contact: Branan Jacobs, 941-893-1818


Grade-Level Reading Week in Philadelphia to focus on community solutions to help children succeed in school and life


PHILADELPHIA (July 19, 2018) – More than 700 educators, foundation executives and national leaders in early childhood education will arrive in Philadelphia beginning Tuesday, July 24 for Grade-Level Reading Week (GLR Week in Philadelphia), the nation’s most significant convening focused on early learning, children’s health and well-being, afterschool and summer programs, and getting all children reading on grade level by the time they enter fourth grade.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is convening the weeklong event for funders, national and state leaders, partners in early childhood education, and over 360 local community coalitions involved in the effort to share successful practices in a series of presentations, discussions and panels. Representatives from communities across the country will participate in sessions through noon Friday at The Logan Philadelphia hotel and other nearby sites.

“GLR Week in Philadelphia is more than a conference — it is a collaborative opportunity for people dedicated to this important issue to exchange ideas and experiences,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “We also welcome and support the Philadelphia community by providing resources and training for local educators, a wonderful ‘leave-behind’ after GLR Week.”

GLR Week in Philadelphia features a multi-staged agenda, beginning with the Funder Huddle for those who support early literacy and learning efforts, the Community & State Leads Convening for educators and organizations leading statewide and local Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Coalitions, and The Institutes for educators presented by Foundations, Inc.

“Philadelphia is not only a great host community, but throughout the city many people and organizations are active in advancing the movement through determination and hard work,” said Smith. “We continue to stay the course we started eight years ago,” he added, “and while we salute and recognize successes across the country, we need continued participation at the community, state and national levels.”

Among the attendees of GLR Week are major national and local foundations that support grade-level reading efforts, current authors and researchers, and people leading their community’s efforts to help children read on grade level by the end of third grade — a key predictor of continued success in school and life.

“GLR Week and the Campaign represent a movement that is more than just a series of annual get-togethers,” said Smith. “Our weeklong theme of Lift, Learn, and Lead is an expression of how committed all of our participants are in this vital effort for today’s children,” he added, “because they will become the successful high school students, college students and leaders of tomorrow.”


The Importance of Grade-Level Reading

About 67 percent of children nationwide — along with more than 80 percent of those from low-income families — are unable to read proficiently by the end of third grade. This sets up a significant challenge as fourth grade marks the point where children move from learning to read to reading to learn. Students who don’t meet this crucial milestone are at greater risk of dropping out of high school, becoming incarcerated and living in poverty.

To achieve its goals, the Campaign has relied on research that points to three key solution areas that have proven to be critical. They are 1) ensuring school readiness and supporting parents as their child’s first and best teacher; 2) addressing chronic school absenteeism and the impact that it has on grade-level reading; and 3) increasing access to summer learning opportunities to avoid the "summer slide" — or loss of learning that affects progress.


Trauma-Informed Practices for Children and Families

The ​Institutes, the third segment of GLR Week, are ​​convened ​by ​Foundations, ​Inc., a national nonprofit organization that provides professional development, training, technical assistance and assessment tools to build the quality of education for low-income children and youth. The Institutes will dive deeper into ​trauma-informed ​practice ​and ​character development ​while ​exploring ​strategies ​to ​support ​students ​and ​families ​as ​they ​face ​adversity.

“Understanding how trauma-informed practice and character development impact child health, well-being, literacy, and learning is important for parents, teachers, afterschool staff and leaders in early childhood education,” said Rhonda Lauer, president and CEO of Foundations, Inc. “We have designed The Institutes with parents and practitioners in mind. Together, participants will learn how character-development education and trauma-informed practice can help move the literacy needle, dramatically improving the chances of success for our most vulnerable children and families.”


Philadelphia: Host and Leader in the Movement

Beyond serving as the host for GLR Week, Philadelphia is at the forefront of the grade-level reading movement. A major local sponsor of the event includes the William Penn Foundation, and the citywide Read by 4th campaign plays a major role in supporting community and school solutions to a range of issues that hinder progress in education and early development. In recognition of the progress made by the city’s civic leaders, organizations and agencies working toward better outcomes for children in 2017, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading named Philadelphia as one of its esteemed Pacesetter communities. The Campaign has also honored several programs focused on specific solutions as Bright Spots that serve as models for similar efforts in communities nationwide.

Smith and Lauer’s experience in Philadelphia’s education landscape was a key factor in joining with the local grade-level reading efforts to bring GLR Week to the city. Smith formerly served as senior vice president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and began his career by teaching corporations and securities regulation at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also served the School District of Philadelphia, one of the nation’s largest districts, as chief of staff and special counsel. Prior to joining Foundations, Inc., Lauer worked in the School District of Philadelphia as associate superintendent, management negotiator, principal, administrator, and teacher. She also served as Superintendent of Schools in Delaware County, Pa.

“We recognized that by collectively leveraging all of our philanthropic, political, cultural and community based resources, we could bring these extremely important topics and this diverse array of thought leaders to a very appropriate place: Philadelphia,” said Smith.

“With nationally recognized speakers and authors such as Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, The Institutes and GLR Week in Philadelphia offer opportunities for those who passionately work to improve the outcomes for our nation’s striving readers,” said Lauer.

Conference Highlights

  • Governor Tom Wolf and Mayor Jim Kenney will each welcome attendees during the morning opening plenary for the Funder Huddle Tuesday, July 24.
  • Dr. Janet Haas, board chair of the William Penn Foundation, will speak during the Funder Huddle opening plenary.
  • Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, author of “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity,” will discuss how and why trauma-informed practices can help to heal children who suffer from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
  • Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will participate in GLR Week and the Free Library of Philadelphia’s esteemed Author Events series. Her book, “What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City,” is the dramatic story of the Flint water crisis and an inspiring tale of scientific resistance by a relentless physician who spoke truth to power.
  • Academy Award-nominated producer/director Roger Weisberg will host a screening for his “Broken Places” documentary followed by a conversation on the film’s theme of childhood adversity.
  • Mary Sellers, U.S. president of United Way Worldwide, is participating in GLR Week in recognition of the grade-level reading efforts of United Ways across the country.
  • Bill Golderer, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, will speak at The Institutes.
  • The Moonshot Moment Reading Rocket, a highly visible, customized bus that functions as a mobile literacy lab offering enriched-literacy experiences for children and families, will be at GLR Week. As a collaborative project, the Reading Rocket will visit several other GLR communities as it returns to its home of Indian River County, Fla. following GLR Week.
  • The Mummers Aqua String Band is set to give a rare summertime performance during an evening welcome reception Tuesday, July 24.


About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, the GLR Campaign has grown to include more than 360 communities, representing 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada — with 4,100 local organizations and 510 state and local funders (including 191 United Ways). To learn more, visit and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.

About Foundations, Inc.

Foundations is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that provides professional development, training, technical assistance, and assessment tools to build the quality of education for low-income children and youth.

Foundations, Inc. equips schools and school districts, afterschool leaders and providers, governments and businesses, families, and neighborhoods with the essential educational strategies they need to help children learn to read early and learn to read well. Foundations provides professional development, technical assistance, coaching, and extended day learning models – all focused on grade-level reading.

Their nationally recognized annual conference, Beyond School Hours, offers educators the tools and knowledge they need to transform their students into lifelong readers and learners. Foundations has also worked with the Annie E. Casey Foundation as a partner in its flagship initiative, Making Connections. Making Connections is a decade-long effort to improve outcomes for children living in tough neighborhoods by addressing the many factors that can contribute to family vulnerability, including low levels of literacy, educational attainment and job skills. To learn more, visit and follow Foundations on Twitter using @foundations_inc.

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