The message to the more than 20,000 residents of Washington County is loud and clear: Shape Up! And Washington County Family Connection and Communities in Schools is ready to do what it takes to help residents in the 680-square-mile county improve their lives through healthy choices.
Some may think the Get Georgia Reading Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s expectation to get every child in the state on a path to reading proficiency by third grade by 2020 is too ambitious. But one look at the efforts Charlton County Family Connection is making and it’s easy to see that—with the work of dedicated partners and focused strategies—that expectation is well within reach.
In many ways, Newton County faces a challenge at every turn in its battle against childhood obesity. The county has few recreational facilities, easy access to fast food, the poverty rate is high, and studies show that most children lead a sedentary lifestyle. And while Newton is faring better than the state, which has the nation’s second highest childhood obesity rate, that provides little solace to the Newton County Community Partnership.
“As we began talking about things we could do to make a difference in our county, the one thing that kept coming up was our grade-level reading scores, ” said Beth Capuson, chair of the Seminole County Family Connection Collaborative. “We had several meetings, and at the end it was clear to everyone that we needed to do something that focused on helping our children read better.”
Countless studies have shown that reading proficiency by third grade is the most significant predictor of high-school graduation and career success. Not one of the most—the most. It is at this crucial juncture in elementary school when a child transitions from learning to read to reading to learn, and if the student isn’t reading on grade level before entering the fourth grade, the consequences can be long term and significant. In Georgia, that translates to nearly 70 percent of students who are at risk of failing or dropping out of school.