Guilford County Featured in Reading Across the State 2017

The Early Literacy Design Team was featured in Reading Across the State 2017, on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website. This series highlights collaborative efforts to promote literacy for North Carolina Students, with the goal of grade-level reading proficiency for all children by the end of third grade. Read the full article below.

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready/Ready), a Guilford County initiative, is a collective leadership initiative focused on building an innovative, responsive early childhood system that meets the needs of today’s families. The initiative, led by local foundations and community leaders, is committed to ensuring that every child in Guilford County enters kindergarten ready for school and life success.

Based on a year of data gathering, community input and collective impact work, Ready/Ready is focused on 10 priorities for system change. One priority is to leverage and expand early literacy resources so more children are reading on grade level by third grade.

Last year, nearly half of entering kindergartners in Guilford County started school below widely held expectations for their age when it comes to language and communication development. This puts the youngest students at a significant disadvantage even before their formal K-12 education begins, said Mary Herbenick, executive director of Ready/Ready.

To address this need, Ready/Ready convened an early literacy design team consisting of 25 individuals from 20 organizations across the county. The team worked together for seven months to develop powerful strategies to drive better outcomes.

They started by talking with families. Team members conducted a total of 50 interviews to learn more about what’s working and not working when it comes to helping children gain needed language/communication skills starting from birth through age five. The team gathered more data from early literacy programs and started to build strategies

“One of our commitments is to engage families in every part of the work, including the design of programs,” Herbenick said. “We’ve made significant shifts based on family feedback and have stopped pursuing strategies when parents tell us that they’re off course.”

The resulting strategic plan is designed to help parents build skills and confidence, to engage the whole community in active reading practices, and more.

One of the main lessons they have learned from working with families is that life with young children can be hectic, so families really want the initiative’s efforts to be focused in places they already visit, such as pediatrician offices, grocery stores, in waiting rooms, and more.

Herbenick says one rewarding aspect of the work is seeing community partners develop stronger relationships and getting creative about how to better serve families and children.

“Guilford has the talent, the will and the ability to tackle difficult problems as long as we go at it together,” said Herbenick. “Together is probably the most important word in our vocabulary.”

To learn more about Ready for School, Ready for Life, visit

Ready for School, Ready for Life is part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, representing 312 community coalitions nationwide. The campaign recognizes that achieving grade-level reading takes engaged communities that are mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities and assist parents to be committed to the success of their children. The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation serves as the state lead organization for the campaign, leading 13 rural and urban community collaboratives in the state vested in children’s success to read at grade-level by the end of third grade.

See the original article – and more about what is going on across the state – at the NC Department of Public Instruction website.