Reaching More Children Through Reading By Third Project

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Rendy Yates, a first grade teacher and reading specialist at Clay Hill Elementary begins. “After 30 years of teaching, my thought [about the Reading by Third Project curriculum] was ‘Here we go with another program. You see them come and go and they just call them different things.’”

While Ms. Yates and other veteran teachers may have been skeptical when introduced with the Reading by Third Project, sponsored by Trident United Way, she has found success with it and even expanded its use to another group of students. 

As donors and residents of the Tri-County community, we know it’s important to you that our children are positioned to succeed in life. Reading at grade level by the end of third grade is a leading indicator of high school graduation and later academic success. Our teachers work hard to give children the support they need to succeed in school and beyond despite limited resources and time. Still, nearly half of third graders in the Tri-County were not reading at grade level by the end of third grade in 2016.

For the first time in history, all four local school districts are working together to address early childhood literacy through the Reading by Third Project, sponsored by Trident United Way and thanks to your investment. Last summer, approximately 100 teachers throughout local schools received training through the University of Florida Lastinger Institute that is designed to meet the children where they are on the path to literacy. The structure concentrates on one-on-one and small group situations.

“Simply put, early literacy is a key factor in community and economic development,” Trident United Way Director of Education Kate Buckholz explains. “Thus, it’s important for TUW to come alongside educators and support them where districts feel it’s needed most. We’re so excited to bolster the great work teachers are already doing  in the Tri-County area.”

Yates began implementing the Reading by Third method through one-one-one sessions with a kindergartener in the fall. By winter break, the child had progressed so much that he was able to rejoin his classroom for reading instruction.

In January 2018, the teachers received follow up training  to be used in small groups of students. After seeing success with her group of first graders, Yates decided to try implementing the practice with one of her two kindergarten groups.

“At this point in the year, we are starting to see the results and really see growth,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Dorchester School District Four Lashawna Rivers echoes. “So if we didn’t have buy-in before, we do now because you’ve started to see kids moving up reading levels and that’s really what we want to see.”

While the Reading by Third Project is still in the early stages of its three-year rollout, preliminary reports are already pointing to signs of success. One particular local elementary school has reported that one of its first grade classrooms using the Reading by Third  is already boasting a 15-24 percent increase in the number of children who are hitting the reading benchmark at this time of year over previous years. The result is that just six months into implementation of the Reading by Third Project, nearly 94 percent of the teacher’s students in that class have already reached the reading benchmark.

“It is paramount our students are able to read by third grade because literacy is the key which unlocks and opens the door to learning in all content areas,” Dorchester School District Two Superintendent Joe Pye re-emphasized. “There are many gaps in reading we must close, so the door to learning can be opened wide for all students.”

Thanks to the investments made by donors like you who care about the success of our community’s children, teachers like Ms. Yates are already seeing that door opening for more students.

“They like the fact that they can read, especially the kindergarteners,” Yates shares. “They’ll say ‘I can read!’ and they will know the words. It’s amazing to watch and they love it!”