On Tuesday, February 6, Read by 4th was proud to host its Second Annual Mayoral Summit at Congregation Rodeph Shalom. The summit brought together a diverse group of leaders united in the belief that real change happens together, and that every child deserves to reach the read-by-4th milestone. The summit was emceed by Brent Johnstone and Akeiff Staples of Fathers Lead 365. Akeiff and Brent recently created their own non-profit which has already led read-alouds for for more than 1,000 daycare students. The summit synthesized 3 themes: the power and importance of a multi-year, citywide, collective approach; the achievements and impact the collective Read by 4th campaign has already had; and the need to build on our momentum and address key barriers to the read-by-4th milestone.
Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President and CEO of the Urban Affairs Coalition, was the first speaker of the summit, and gave background on the genesis of Read by 4th. As someone who runs a coalition herself, Ms. Matlock-Turner also spoke to the power of organized, aligned action, and that working together can accelerate change. Read by 4th Executive Director Jenny Bogoni followed, and spoke to that same accelerated change and aligned action through recent successes in the campaigns six bold ideas.
Distinguished speakers Dr. William R. Hite, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney, and Managing Director of the City Mike DiBerardinis all spoke of the systemic and interrelated progress the city has been seeing. Dr. Hite highlighted that the School District has modernized K-2 classrooms, provided literacy teacher coaches at every elementary school, delivered dedicated teacher training for literacy instruction to all its teachers, and increased school attendance among other achievements. Mayor Kenney addressed the importance of Read by 4th, literacy, and brought about by interconnected city initiatives like PHLpreK and community schools. These interconnected initiatives were obvious in Managing Director Mike DiBerardinis’ remarks as he highlighted the City’s efforts to enhance Out of School Time (OST) programs with the Philly Reading Coaches initiative and its success so far. During his remarks, Mr. DiBerardinis took it upon himself to shout-out the excellent work of several Reading Captains.
Philadelphia City Council members Kenyatta Johnson, Helen Gym, and Derek Green presented Read by 4th with an official resolution, passed by the City Council, that recognizes the Read by 4th initiative for its dedication to increasing educational attainment in the City of Philadelphia.
Taking this energy and excitement, attendees were then invited by Moderators Aldustus Jordan, VP of Community Affairs Manager for Wells Fargo, and Waleska Maldonado, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, to turn to each other and discuss three critical questions on attendance:
- How can we make sure all families understand how important attendance is to reading on grade level?
- Many families face challenges that make it difficult to get children to school – transportation, housing, laundry access, healthcare, and more. What can we do to help remove these barriers?
- What can you personally do to support good attendance?
Share backs from the discussion were taken from a variety of attendees, including Judge Doris Smith-Ribner who helped develop an information card that she would share with pastors so they could address issues around attendance in their sermons.
Finally, the summit heard from President and CEO of the Smarter Learning Group, Ron Fairchild, about the great work Read by 4th has done. Mr. Fairchild made it a point to mention that Philadelphia has the largest, and most expansive, effort to improve grade level reading in the nation. Going further, Mr. Fairchild praised the City of Philadelphia and reminded everyone of the national Grade Level Reading conference taking place here in Philadelphia in July.
The summit was an energizing event that created space for important discussions and inclusion of every industry in this work. Through celebrating past successes and the importance of collective approaches to systematic work, the summit not only affirmed that real change happens together and that rewriting Philadelphia’s early literacy story will be the effort of more than one author, but that we can and should be excited to read on.
Read by 4th is a multi-year, citywide campaign that brings together an ever-growing coalition of partners and community members to double the number of children reading at grade level by the start of the 4th grade.