A 12-year-old girl writes a math equation on the whiteboard in Clay County, Kentucky. Carla is enrolled in sponsorship and is proactive in afterschool and in-school literacy. Photo Credit: Victoria Zegler/Save the Children 2017.

A 12-year-old girl writes a math equation on the whiteboard in Clay County, Kentucky. Carla is enrolled in sponsorship and participates in afterschool and in-school literacy programs.

Child Literacy Programs in the U.S.

The Need

Did you know that only about 1 in 3 American fourth-graders are proficient in reading? By fourth grade, if children can't read at grade level, they're unlikely to ever catch up.

The outcome is even more alarming if the struggling readers happen to be among the 16 million American children who live in poverty, whose only hope at a brighter future is through education. Half of all low-income fourth-graders score below basic levels on U.S. literacy assessments. And yet, more than 60% of low-income families can't afford to have books in their homes.

Education is a ladder out of poverty. But that ladder is often out of reach for America’s low-income children. These children struggle in school in large part because they don’t have the familiarity with books and language that are the building blocks of literacy.

Rethinking Child Literacy in the U.S.

We know that fostering a love of learning early on is key to improving literacy in America and ensuring our children's success in school and life. That's why we offer effective school-based child literacy programs to disadvantaged students right here in the United States. Our child literacy programs and expanded curriculum in math help children from kindergarten through sixth grade stay on track developmentally and grow as readers and learners.

How Our Child Literacy Programs Work:

  • Supporting Teachers and Schools
    Our child literacy programs provide the training, tools and support schools need to accelerate reading growth for struggling readers.
  • Programs During the School Year
    To support reading during the school day, we provide children with tutorials in phonics, sight word growth, comprehension and vocabulary enhancement.
  • Afterschool and Summer Programs
    Aimed at kindergarteners through sixth graders, our afterschool and summer literacy programs feature a curriculum built around the Literacy Block — an hour of activities supporting increased reading achievement, including guided independent reading practice, fluency-building support and listening to books read aloud.
  • Extra Help for Emergent Readers
    To give young children just entering school an extra boost to their literacy growth we conduct emergent reader activities for children in kindergarten and first grade.

Our Results for Children:

Save the Children’s child literacy programs produce stellar results for children. Student evaluations from last year show:

  • Save the Children’s school-based child literacy programs served more than 12,000 children across rural America.
  • 4 in 5 or 82% of children showed major improvement after participating in the program.
  • Children participating in the literacy program made reading growth equivalent to attending 7 additional months of school.

What Our Students are Saying

As students in our child literacy programs know, reading really can take you places. Here’s why some of our students love a good book:

 "I want to be a veterinarian and reading is helping make my dreams come true! I already work at the zoo and reading has helped give me the knowledge I need to do my job well."
– Dedra, 16, Tennessee (former student in Save the Children's U.S. school-based program)

 "I like to read because there are new adventures all the time. Fiction is my favorite, because you can get inside the adventure."
–Brandon, 11, Tennessee

 "Reading lets me travel to awesome places in my imagination. That’s why I like to read."
—Nyla, 9, Mississippi


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