SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Only 20% of third graders in the Syracuse City School District are reading at a third grade level. This is roughly 30% below the state-wide average, according to the Early Childhood Alliance of Onondaga County,
The Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County is working to change these statistics. The organization has partnered with programs like The Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to get kids ages zero to five prepared for kindergarten. Kids enrolled in the program get a free book in the mail every month.
Nicole Luebke is an Onondaga County resident, and the mother of two children enrolled in the Imagination Library Program. Her son Greg is 2-years-old and loves getting his book from the mailbox each month. Luebke said her son is already saying words above his age level.
“His favorite book right now, this excavator book, and he can actually say excavator,” Luebke said.
Her 5-year-old did not start the program as early as Greg did, and she said she can tell the difference.
Schwab said there is a direct correlation between third grade reading levels and high school graduation rates, said Kevin Schwab, the co-chair of the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County. Furthermore, scoring well in third grade depends on readiness for kindergarten.
“There’s some value in kids just leafing through books, looking at pictures, making up their own stories, and understanding that they’re trying to read. That actually sets a kid up to be able to read when they get to school,” Schwab said.
The Imagination Library program is growing in Central New York. The Literacy Coalition has experienced months where it has enrolled 300 kids in the program.
Nationwide 115,000,000 books have been distributed through the Imagination Library.