A push to improve child literacy in Baltimore

Posted at 12:12 PM, Jun 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-03 18:18:52-04

The numbers are both startling and sad. Only 11 percent of students in Baltimore City can read well by the fourth grade. Sixty percent are below their grade level.

And they get worse. Studies show lower income children have zero to two books on average in their home, compared to middle income children who have an average of 54 books in their home.

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There's a push to get Baltimore to be the city that reads again, a slogan first adopted by former mayor Kurt Schmoke. The Baltimore Campaign for Grade Level Reading wants to get a book in every child's hand, whether they're waiting at the barbershop or sitting in church.

"We're working with other organizations to make sure all kids have access to books at home, in school and in their community," said Kimberly Manns, program director for the campaign.

One place the campaign is working with is the Maryland Book Bank. They are the go-to book source for about 700 organizations and schools, distributing about 150,000 books a year.

"Up to third grade, you're learning to read. After third grade, you're reading to learn," said Mark Feiring, the executive director of the Maryland Book Bank. "So from that point on if you're not proficient, you're stumbling along trying to keep up w/ the kids who do have books at home and are proficient."

Amber Woods loves having the Maryland Book Bank just a couple of miles away from Margaret Brent Elementary and Middle school where she teaches second grade. As a teacher with just a couple of years under her belt, she doesn't have the money to pay for books to fill her classroom's library.  

"Having the choices for readers is one of the five importance of early literacy," Woods said. "Kids really need to be invested in what they're reading and they have to have the options."

To learn more about the Baltimore Campaign Grade Level Reading coalition, click here. If you'd like to make a donation to the Maryland Book Bank, click here to find out how.

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