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Mayor Kevin Johnson announced the launch of a third grade reading campaign for the greater Sacramento area Tuesday at his press conference.
According to Johnson, the three areas that the campaign will focus on are school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.
The 10-year campaign will combat low literacy levels and make sure that all Sacramento students will be reading at grade level by the time they graduate third grade, Johnson said.
“Third grade is a pivotal point for young people. It’s where kids transition from learning to read and reading to learn,” he said.
“In terms of a city, it impacts our crime rate, impacts our employment rate, impacts our competitive environment in terms of a highly educated work force, health factors and quality of life,” Johnson said.
According to Sacramento City Unified School District standardized testing scores, 39 percent of third graders in Sacramento are reading at grade level, Johnson said.
“Our vision is to be the first city in this country where every third grader graduates and can be reading at grade level,” Johnson said. “We have to mobilize our entire community.”
Ron Fairchild, senior consultant of the campaign acknowledged that the reading initiative is not a new campaign, but the achievement gap is a result of things that happen before kids get into kindergarten.
“Lower-income kids on average hear 30 million fewer words than their middle- or upper-income peers by the time they reach age 3,” Fairchild said.
Sacramento County Office of Education
City Unified School District
Superintendent Dave Gordon said he is pleased with the reading campaign efforts.
“For the first time, we’ve got superintendents and city leaders and officials working together to help align city services with school district services so we cut out the waste and we make the programs that we have together most effective,” Gordon said.
According to Gordon, the reading rates got this bad because of the significant amount of funding that has been taken away from schools.
“The state has not funded schools in a consistent or effective matter,” Gordon said, adding that there needs to be more focus on the range of subjects schools teach.
Literacy is important for students reaching their full potential, Capt. Dan Schiele of the Sacramento Police Department said. “Without basic reading skills, a person may choose a life of crime in order to survive.”
Parent Monica Jones of Natomas expressed concern about the lack of parent voices.
“You have got to engage the parents in this process,” she said.
“The parents are the key and most important indicator of everything we’re talking about,” Johnson said.
Another key challenge is students for whom English is a second language, Johnson said.
“We want to be able to holistically look at this whole problem to make sure everyone has an opportunity,” he said.
At the end of the press conference, Johnson also addressed the Kings’ issues.
“I feel like we’re dying a slow death,” he said. “Every day there’s a different clue of the likelihood that the Kings are going to Anaheim.
“We can’t control a business decision that the Maloofs are going to make, which they feel is in their best interest,” Johnson said. “We as a community want to have grace and dignity and to continue to support the Kings as long as they’re here in town.”
Editorial Note: A correction has been made to this story after it was published. The incorrect information has been struck out and the correct information has been added.