Dear Grade Level Reading Coalition,
The release of the 2015 NAEP scores this week for Maryland and specifically Baltimore City was sobering. With across the board declines in reading and math, only 11% of fourth graders in Baltimore scored proficient or above in reading compared to 14% in 2013. Though this decline is not statistically significantly, the results are disappointing to us all.
We know that the collective effort of stakeholders, like those represented through our Coalition, can make a real impact on these numbers. We have built a strong foundation. We have already begun to see the true promise of this collaboration through small wins and connections. It is our hope that we will use these NAEP results as fuel to strengthen our momentum toward real progress for the 2017 scores.
Our next Coalition meeting will focus on two areas that we believe will have a significant impact on these results: policy priorities and communication/engagement. In preparation for the meeting, we have created a policy landscape and survey for your input. Please take a look and vote by November 9th for the policy priorities you believe we should focus on at our upcoming Coalition meeting to help move the needle on reading scores in Baltimore.
On another note, our newsletter has a different look. Over the past year, the Campaign has explored how to effectively communicate the importance of reading to families in Baltimore City. We have facilitated workshops, focus groups, and one-on-one conversations with over 150 families to learn why they think reading is important. The answer from our parents has been clear: reading is a fundamental skill, necessary to not only excel but to survive day-to-day life.
Based on this community input, the new brand for our campaign is “B’More Read More: Reading is Everywhere.” To understand this message, I challenge you over the next week to notice each time you have to read to complete even the simplest task, such as crossing the street and reading the stop sign, reading this newsletter or filling out a form at the doctor’s office. And then imagine what it would be like if you didn’t know how.
In this newsletter, we share more about the process that led us to our new brand and how we’ll utilize this messaging to provide tools to help families make real progress for their children. You will hear more at our next Coalition Meeting on Wednesday, November 18th from 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM at the Family League of Baltimore.
In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any feedback or questions you may have.
I look forward to seeing everyone on the 18th.
How We Came To B’More Read More
We began exploring how to best communicate the importance of reading to families in Baltimore City through a partnership with the MICA Center For Social Design last fall. The Center facilitated a process to co-create the message through workshops with key audiences: providers, community leaders and families of children 0-8. From insights gleaned from research and four workshops, we found that the essence of the Campaign should be to “rally a city of readers.”
In addition, we discovered that families view the ability to read as fundamental to their survival (i.e.- children need to be able to read a stop sign to cross the street, read directions to make a meal if their caregiver isn’t home or fill out a job application). Using these insights, we worked to create brand concepts to test with the community through focus groups and one-on-one conversations.
We spoke with over 150 families, providers and community leaders. Participants found B’More Read More: Reading is Everywhere memorable, they liked that it was specific to Baltimore and viewed it as positive, motivational and aspirational. Families felt it would appeal to a broad audience, including children. In general, families felt this concept clearly stressed the importance of reading in daily life.
We’d like to thank the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds and Steering Committee Member, Meredith Callanan, for their support on this rebranding process.
The New Communications Vehicles
Through our conversations with families, providers, and community leaders, parents have consistently asked two questions:
- What is my child’s reading level and how can I help?
- How can I improve my own reading skills?
We intend to use our new brand to provide families with tools that will answer these questions. This will range from general support– which will be found on a page dedicated to parents on our new website: bmorereadmore.org— to a strategy for creating sites that give families advice on improving literacy skills for their child and themselves. It is our hope that these sites will be led by community leaders, OST providers, schools and child care providers with support from the Campaign. We will share drafts of these tools with you at our next Coalition meeting and look forward to receiving your feedback.
As a way to stay connected, we include Coalition needs in our monthly newsletter. Please email Kimberly Manns if there is a need or announcement you would like the Coalition to know about at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- During the months of October and November, City Schools will be hosting a series of community meetings to gather input and ideas on how the district can advance its mission of excellence for every child. Parents, students, school and district staff, community organizations, and other education stakeholders and partners are invited to learn more about City Schools’ strategic plan and give their input.
- The Alliance for Community, Teachers and Schools (ACTS) is looking for funding to provide culturally-based books for every student who participates in their People of Word campaign. Schools and their communities work together to create arts-based programming around book sets they have chosen to provide an immersive literacy experience for children, interwoven into curriculum and out of school time programming. For questions or support, please email Melissa Tabeek at email@example.com.
- The Maryland Out Of School Time Network will hold its 6th annual statewide conference on out-of-school-time at the Turf Valley Resort in Ellicott City, Maryland, on January 7th and 8th, 2016. More information can be found here.
- Join Maryland Family Network for the 6th Annual Sandra J. Skolnik Lecture on Early Childhood Education and Advocacy- Once Upon a Time: When Childcare for All Wasn’t Just a Fairy Tale on November 30th from 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM. Register here.
- Reading Partners is looking for volunteer tutors to work with struggling readers throughout the school year. Find out more.