A 2010 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a national philanthropy with a focus on children has sparked a national conversation on the importance of the essential skill of reading. The Casey report offers numbers that are real and numbers that are harsh. Seventy-four percent of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade will struggle in school and fail to earn a diploma.


This number is relevant to us in Worcester where 59% of students in our public schools are failing to reach that benchmark. More than one-half  of children in our schools will be compromised in their ability to master material in other areas of the curriculum as a result of their inability to read with understanding. This is unacceptable if we are interested in providing young people with the tools and habits to acquire meaningful work and to contribute positively to civic life.

To address this concern, for the past several months a host of partners, led by the Worcester Education Collaborative have been working to develop and implement a city wide strategy to address this matter in our city. The work focuses on three areas that have been identified by the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading that, in addition to classroom instruction have a significant impact on reading achievement and are primarily the responsibility of families and the community. These are:


School Readiness

Many children, particularly those from low income families begin school without having had consistent exposure to books or high quality pre-school experiences. In terms of overall language, the gap in words heard by low income children compared to higher income peers approaches 30 million.

Summer Learning Loss

Children who do not access enriching activities and can lose as much as three months of reading comprehension skill over the summer. This means that they are unable to hit the ground running academically in the fall when they enter a new grade. Over time, the cumulative result of this annual loss has a significant impact on both student achievement across the curriculum, and on long term educational attainment.

Chronic Absenteeism

Some families believe that consistent attendance in pre-school and in the primary grades is not critically important. However, early absenteeism sets patterns and habits that effect attendance in the long term. Students who are chronically absent, in our city those missing 18 or more days of school per year, are at a significantly higher risk of academic failure.


The Worcester Grade Level Reading Initiative is both a set of programs and activities and a campaign to inform the public about this issue, but also begin to shift our community’s culture to one that values reading.


“World Smile Day” is Friday, October 3

To celebrate, Worcester is launching a literacy campaign that is sure to make people smile!

Worcester - The City That Reads, is sponsoring free literacy activities across Worcester, both in the schools and in public venues like the Worcester Public Library, The Hanover Theatre, and the EcoTarium. The public events are targeted for young children not yet in school and will feature reading activities and visits by favorite book characters and team mascots. The goal of the campaign is simple.



20 minutes. Every Child. Every Day.

This time adds up and will help your child be able to keep up with reading in school. For more information and the schedule of activities across Worcester, check the Worcester Telegram this week or Like Us on Facebook at Worcester The City That Reads.

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