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Reading by Third

Through the third grade, students are still learning to read, developing the grasp of phonics and building the vocabulary it takes to digest printed material. After third grade, the focus shifts: Students read to learn, relying on a strong foundation in reading and writing to process the increasingly complex information presented to them in textbooks.

Children who aren't strong readers by the end of third grade fall behind - and studies suggest many of them never catch up. Every year in San Joaquin County, thousands of children leave third grade unable to read proficiently, a setback with troubling implications for their future and for the future of the region itself.

The problem is serious, but not unsolvable.

Organizations and individuals throughout San Joaquin County have come together in an effort to improve early literacy through the Beyond Our Gates Reading by Third initiative. Together, we are focusing attention and resources on the factors that most strongly influence a child's reading ability:

• School readiness: Preparing young children for kindergarten doesn't take expensive equipment or extensive training. Raising a reader starts simply: with talking, singing, reading, writing and playing. Through San Joaquin Reads, Pacific and our Beyond Our Gates partners are giving parents the tools they need to build early literacy skills every day.

• Attendance: Children who are absent for 10 percent or more of the school year (about 18 days) for any reason are less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade. Every Day Counts is a Beyond Our Gates initiative that encourages students and families to get to school on time every day.

• Summer Learning: Summer can be a time for enrichment and exploration, but for too many children, it's a time when important academic skills are lost. Working with the San Joaquin County Office of Education and The Record newspaper, Pacific produces a bilingual summer learning guide, that is distributed to nearly 50,000 local students every year.

Our goals are ambitious. Working in close collaboration with our community partners, we are on the path toward achieving them.