Guest commentator: Jenny Bogoni, Executive Director, Read by 4th, @JennyBogoni @Readby4th  

Why is early literacy critical to neighborhood health?

A quarter of a million Philadelphians read at a below basic level, according to the National Center for Education. Low-literacy levels are associated with many disadvantages in the job market. Less literate adults are expensive to hire as more training is needed to perform basic functions such as reading labels or logging work hours on a computer.

The deficit in literacy skills that should have been cultivated in childhood deprives many Philadelphians of wages necessary to make ends meet. The inability to make a sufficient wage to afford basic goods negatively impacts our city’s economy.

If two-thirds of Philadelphia’s children are unable to read at grade-level, how can they read to learn other subjects? Subjects that are necessary to grasp in order to become the next financiers, physicists, or history teachers that contribute to improving our city’s neighborhoods and economy.

The Read by 4th campaign is made up of a coalition of over 130 organizations in addition to community volunteers and parents. Together, we work to increase the number of Philadelphia children reading at grade-level by 4th grade.

Following our six bold ideas framework, our objectives include increasing daily attendance (which increases reading test scores), connecting children to literacy-rich out-of-school activities, and working with families to build home literacy habits.

Through initiatives such as Philly Reading Coaches, our partners train volunteers to provide early reading support to young students in kindergarten through third grade. Students in the initiative are gifted 25 books. Through the Reading Captains initiative, the campaign aims to place a literacy resource leader on each neighborhood block in the city. Reading Captains serve in myriads of ways, from maintaining community book nooks to reminding parents to register their children for kindergarten.

As a key partner in the Read by 4th Campaign, the School District is transforming how reading is taught in elementary schools. However, each year consists of 6,000 waking hours, and our children spend, on average, less than 20 percent of those hours in school. Families and communities decide how to utilize the other 80% of hours to benefit our children’s future educational attainment and, in turn, our neighborhoods’ socioeconomic health.

To reach the Read by 4th milestones as a community, we need you to join us.  Become a Reading Captain or a Philly Reading Coach in your neighborhood. Or visit Readby4th.org for other ways you can rewrite Philadelphia’s early literacy story.


The Chamber’s Read to Me early literacy program is part of Read By 4th, a citywide campaign that brings together an ever-growing coalition of partners to get all children reading at grade level by 4th grade.

Read by 4th is a partner of the Chamber’s Roadmap for Growth Action Team, a group of 180+ Chamber members and partners united to lift and improve Philadelphia’s economic and civic life.

Upcoming Program

Roadmap for Growth: Uniting Against the Opioid Crisis
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
4:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Broad Street Ministry