della harp

Della Harp

Della Harp

September is National Literacy Month, so there’s no better time to reflect on what more we can do to improve early literacy in our community.

Yesterday, the Oregon Department of Education released the results of the Smarter Balanced state assessment for the 2018-19 school year. The scores show that 54% of third-graders did not meet state reading benchmarks last year, including 59% in Douglas County.

Here’s why it matters: Third grade is a critical turning point when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Research proves that children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.

Lower literacy rates don’t just hurt individual children — they hurt us all. They impact the future health and prosperity of Oregon. They add strain on social and health services, impede our economic growth, and weaken our workforce.

Reading is a crucial gateway skill that paves the pathway for successful futures. Without it, kids are less likely to graduate from high school or find gainful employment as adults, leading to a host of additional hardships. Building a strong foundation of literacy can change a child’s life trajectory, and can help prevent and alleviate issues of poverty, homelessness, hunger and injustice.

At SMART Reading, helping kids become strong, confident readers is our mission and purpose. We’re a children’s literacy nonprofit that serves kids in Oregon’s highest-need school with two ingredients critical for literacy and learning success: one-on-one reading time, and access to books. We mobilize volunteers to read with Pre-K through third graders, and provide each child with two new books each month to keep and build their personal library.

Importantly, we know SMART Reading works. By the end of the year, two-thirds of our students are reading on grade level compared to fewer than half statewide, and over 80% show improved confidence, social and emotional skills, and reading motivation.

Here in Douglas County, we’ll serve over 600 kids in the 2019-20 school year thanks to 300 volunteers, but we need more help. I invite you to join us and start making a reader today by signing up to volunteer one hour a week. The kids gain skills, confidence, and a lifelong love of learning, and you gain the powerful fulfillment of making a difference in the life of a child in our community.

There’s no better time to start than during National Literacy Month.

Visit to learn more about volunteering with SMART Reading.

Della Harp is the Douglas County Area Manager for SMART Reading.

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