Boosting Literacy in Kent County

One in six children who does not read proficiently in third grade does not graduate from high school on time – a rate four times greater than that for strong readers. With that in mind, KConnect, First Steps Kent, and Western Michigan University brought together a diverse group of partners that work to support literacy in Kent County. The group of nearly 20 organizations would like to create a strategic community plan for improving literacy rates across the county, with a focus on eliminating racial disparities.

The group reviewed third grade reading data to see where students in Kent County stand now in terms of literacy. For the 2017-2018 school year, Kent County was ranked 24th of 83 counties in Michigan – 49.3% of students were proficient readers in third grade. The disaggregated data shows significant disparities by race and ethnicity:

  • Non-Hispanic White: 62% proficiency,
  • Non-Hispanic Black: 23% proficiency, and
  • Hispanic/Latinx: 29% proficiency.

The organizations represented offer a wide variety of programs and services to improve literacy in Kent County. Part of the focus of the convening is to make sure services are aligned and working together. A few realistic goals that came out of the meeting included making sure that there is a common measurement system so that there will be a baseline to see if improvements are being made along with a goal to create opportunities for parents and families to use community resources as they work on literacy skills.