Efforts seek to improve growing reading gaps as students progress through school

reading-studentOf the 60 percent of West Virginia students who come from low-income backgrounds, only a third can read proficiently by the end of third grade.

That’s according to Charlotte Webb, coordinator of elementary education for the state Department of Education and state leader for the West Virginia Leaders of Literacy: Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a statewide initiative that seeks to raise the third-grade proficiency rate among Mountain State students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to 66 percent over the next five school years.

The 2015-16 state budget allocates $5.7 million to the campaign. Monica DellaMea, executive director of the state Office of Early Learning, said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin previously gave about $6.2 million per year to improving math and reading instruction in third and eighth-grade classrooms, but he’s redirected the reduced funding to focus on improving reading from birth through third grade–albeit with a broad array of possible initiatives including reducing student absences, encouraging parents to read to their children and identifying students who have problems with vision or hearing before they enter school.

Next page: Technology tools aid the effort