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Reading by Third

Through the third grade, students are still learning to read, developing the grasp of phonics and building the vocabulary it takes to digest printed material. After third grade, the focus shifts: Students read to learn, relying on a strong foundation in reading and writing to process the increasingly complex information presented to them in textbooks.

Children who aren't strong readers by the end of third grade fall behind - and studies suggest many of them never catch up. Every year in San Joaquin County, thousands of children leave third grade unable to read proficiently, a setback with troubling implications for their future and for the future of the region itself.

The problem is serious, but not unsolvable.

Organizations and individuals throughout San Joaquin County have come together in an effort to improve early literacy through the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third initiative. Together, we have established clear, common goals that focus attention and resources on the factors that most strongly influence a child's reading ability:

• School readiness: San Joaquin County children, beginning at birth, will have access to early-learning experiences that prepare them for kindergarten.

One of the most effective ways for parents to help prepare their young children for school is to read to them every day. Unfortunately, many local families lack access to high-quality children's books. Learn how the Pacific community is supporting a local program that gives parents the resources and knowledge they need to strengthen literacy at home.

• Parent engagement: Parents and caregivers will be empowered to play their indispensable roles in the succesful education of their children.

To help parents and caregivers become strong advocates for their children and to support learning at home, Pacific and First 5 San Joaquin collaborated to organize a series of literacy workshops, offered in English and Spanish and hosted by nonprofit agencies, faith communities and other organizations.

• Attendance and summer learning: Local families will be aware of and have access to practical solutions for two of the most significant roadblocks to achievement, chronic absence from school and summer learning loss.

Summer can be a time for enrichment and exploration, but for many children, it's also a time when important academic skills are lost. Working with the San Joaquin County Office of Education and The Record newspaper, Pacific produced a bilingual summer learning guide, distributed to nearly 50,000 local students.

Our goals are ambitious. Working in close collaboration with our community partners, we are on the path toward achieving them.