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Tahoe Truckee Reads: Hard work pays off – but much more is needed

Courtesy photo Laura Abbey Brown was among the local contingent that accepted the award last week in Denver.
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TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. – Tahoe Truckee kicked off summer in grand fashion by winning the prestigious All America City Award from the National Civic League. I was fortunate to attend the national conference and award ceremony in Denver last week, along with TTUSD representatives Ruth Hall, Heidi Bushway Verkler and Superintendent Robert Leri.

We were among 600 attendees from around the country all with the common goal of improving grade level literacy, including delegates from 124 communities representing 350 school districts and more than 8 million children.

Nearly 50 workshops over two days provided advice needed to improve third-grade level reading. The conference culminated with the All America City Award ceremony presented by the National Civic League.



Winning the All America City Award is a highly prestigious designation of which we can all be proud and use to promote our community in many ways. We do not receive money directly for winning this title; however, it will open up funding opportunities. This designation was given to us for the plan that was created to address grade level literacy in our community.

It started last fall when an opportunity to submit a community plan focusing on grade level literacy arrived via email. The National Civic League (NCL), a 117-year-old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that “strengthens democracy by increasing the capacity of groups and individuals to participate in and build healthy and prosperous communities,” put out the challenge. Each year the National Civic League has a specific area of focus and this year they partnered with the National Grade Level Reading Campaign whose goal is to mobilize philanthropic leadership around improving third grade reading over the next decade.



After submitting our letter of intent to NCL in October, a team with representation from Excellence in Education, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation, Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, First 5, Placer and Nevada County and TTUSD convened to start the planning process. We titled our local campaign Tahoe Truckee Reads, and held community meetings to gather input and data from local experts.

The plan we submitted in March has strategies to boost third-grade reading levels focusing on reading proficiency, school readiness, attendance and summer reading. Additionally, we are putting an emphasis on increased coordination and communication and system change to better assess and track data in each of the target areas.

Reading at grade level by third grade is critical. This is when students shift from learning to read to reading to learn. The likelihood of future academic success begins to decline for a child who isn’t reading at grade level at this time. Our goal is to have at least 75 percent of students who read below grade level participate in summer reading programs, and to ultimately increase the percentage of grade-level readers in our community from 53 percent to 80 percent by 2020.

We are already feeling the tide shifting and new opportunities coming to our region as a result of Tahoe Truckee Reads. On the first night of the conference the National Literacy Funders Network approached us and suggested we partner with two other rural communities, one in New York and the other in Texas, to jointly apply for grant funding. They acknowledged that individually our communities are too small to approach to them for funding but in partnership, we create a unique triangle representation of the country. As the evening developed we had fascinating conversations with our new friends from New York and Texas, discussing our communities and the common challenges we face around literacy.

The second night we attended a meeting with the 17 California cities that also submitted plans. We agreed to work collaboratively and share experiences and resources to move our state forward in the campaign effort. I believe that in addition to the benefits we receive as a charter member of the Grade Level Reading Community Network, which includes peer-learning opportunities, meetings with national experts and policy-makers and a foundation registry designed to expand and replicate successful programs, we are going to see new funding and partnership opportunities present themselves.

Upon the close of the Denver conference, the director of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading reminded everyone that the 2016 All America City Awards will be based on how much progress communities have made toward improving early literacy

“It doesn’t matter where we start, it matters where we finish,” he said.

So, while we celebrate our new accolade, we know we need to get to work and get our kids reading!

– Laura Abbey Brown is executive director of Tahoe Truckee Excellence in Education.


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