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River Region United Way launches initiative to increase reading proficiency in mid-South Alabama schools

River Region United Way (RRUW) is working to increase reading proficiency rates among Alabama children, according to a recently launched campaign.

A virtual forum consisting of regional leaders was held this week as RRUW announced the initiative, which aims to increase the number of students across the River Region reading proficiently by the end of the third grade. The River Region Bold Goal Coalition will consist of various local entities that support children and families in Autauga, Elmore, Lowndes, Macon and Montgomery Counties.

RRUW says coalition partners will pursue a shared vision and a common set of measurements to track the effort’s progress. The Bold Goal Coalition will invest in new and existing strategies from birth through a child’s first eight years that address the root causes for why some children struggle with reading.

During the announcement, United Way featured comments from Dr. Barbara Cooper, the secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, as well as a discussion with school superintendents from Autauga County Schools, Elmore County Public Schools, Lowndes County Public Schools, Macon County Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools and Pike Road City Schools.

President and CEO of River Region United Way Ron Simmons hailed the collective regional effort to make a positive impact in the lives of young students.

“The truth is, there is no one organization or strategy that can ensure that every child in the River Region reads proficiently by the end of third grade,” said Simmons. “Pervasive issues require collective action to make a collective impact. It will take all of us working together, aligning our efforts, and coming up with shared community goals and solutions.”

According to the release, the River Region Bold Goal Coalition is modeled after the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and similar efforts across the country, including in Birmingham. The River Region Bold Goal Coalition aims to become a StriveTogether community partner.

The state’s Campaign for Grade-Level Reading report outlined several collective impact strategies communities could implement to help children start on a path to school success. Some of the proposed strategies included expanding high-quality early childhood education, prioritizing new investments in summer- and after-school programs, and piloting new initiatives to reduce truancy, improve parent engagement and address mental health and wellbeing.

RRUW says the Bold Goal Coalition will begin forming working groups to identify the programs and strategies to be pursued in the coming months.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL