Our Work

Lehigh Valley Reads wants all Lehigh Valley third graders to be reading on grade level, by 2025. To achieve that goal, Lehigh Valley Reads is working on several issues that can impact a child’s progress towards reading well by the end of third grade. 

Currently there are six key areas that Lehigh Valley Reads is addressing. Coalitions of community members, service providers, educators, family members, volunteers, and staff from United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and other organizations are in the community and in schools doing the work to help us advance the work in these six areas to reach our overall goal.

Early Childhood Coalition

How does third grade reading connect to early learning before kindergarten?

Nearly 7,000 babies are born in the Lehigh Valley every year, and almost half live in low-income families. Our most vulnerable children have the most limited exposure to high-quality childcare and will likely begin kindergarten 12-14 months behind their peers. Seven out of ten children in the Lehigh Valley are not ready for kindergarten, socially, emotionally or cognitively. Children who enter kindergarten not ready need additional supports to improve their language and literacy development to get them on track for reading well by the end of third grade. 

How are we addressing kindergarten readiness? We are: 
  • Supporting the Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing campaign. This campaign encourages families, community members and others to talk, read and sing to young babies to build their brain and develop language and literacy skills. Making everyday small moments big by talking, reading and singing is easy and effective. 
  • Networking partners across the Lehigh Valley to a common message around the importance of Talk, Read, Sing. 
  • Building awareness around on-time kindergarten registration across the Lehigh Valley.

Summer Slide

What happens to a child’s reading skills over the summer months?

When school lets out for the summer, new challenges emerge for many children living in poverty. In addition to limitations on free or reduced breakfast and lunch, many children do not have access to learning opportunities that help them continue to build their reading skills. Children who do not participate in learning programs or enrichment opportunities such as field trips, camps, etc. over the summer can lose between two to three months of reading skills. This is called the "summer slide". Children from low-income households often experience this summer slide because of these limited opportunities to continue growing their skills.

While low-income students lose 2-3 months of learning over the summer, higher income students gain knowledge and increase their language and reading skills. This yearly process is cumulative and can account for two-thirds of the achievement gap between low-income students and their middle-income peers in by ninth grade. 

How are we addressing the summer slide?  We are: 
  • Increasing the number of summer opportunities available for children across the Lehigh Valley, especially for low-income children
  • Increasing the quality of all summer opportunities to ensure they are rigorous and address language and literacy skills.
  • Organizing information about summer learning opportunities so families are more aware of the resources available 
  • Funding summer learning programming in partnership with some school districts

Challenge 5

What happens to a child’s reading skills if they miss just 2 days of school each month?

About 1 in 5 children across the Lehigh Valley miss more than 18 days of school each year. That’s roughly 2 days per month, 10 percent of the school year, and about a month of lost learning opportunity. Students who miss this many days are considered chronically absent, fall behind in their course work, and have a difficult time keeping connected with their classmates.

The Challenge 5 campaign encourages students to attend school every day, and to strive for less than five days absent each year.

Every day attendance in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten has been shown to set the pattern for how kids will continue to value attending school each year. Important reading skills taught in kindergarten and first grade are critical to helping kids read well by the end of third grade.

How are we addressing chronic absenteeism and everyday attendance? We are: 
  • Helping schools become really great at tracking school attendance and chronic absenteeism. 
  • Supporting programs that make it fun for kids to come to school every day. 
  • Thanking parents and family members who make every day attendance a priority
  • Building more positive school cultures and offering supports to families who have barriers to sending their children to school every day

Trauma Informed Schools

How does trauma at home affect a child in the classroom?

One in 4 children will witness or experience a traumatic event before the age of 4. Children who experience trauma can have significant delays in their language and emotional brain development, which can make it more challenging to pay attention in class and process new information.

Preparing schools to be “trauma informed” means making sure teachers and staff are aware of and sensitive to trauma. It also means ensuring a school is a safe, stable, and supportive environment for students and staff. The goal is to meet kids where they are, prevent re-injury or re-traumatization by acknowledging trauma and its triggers, avoiding stigmatizing and punishing students and increase quality learning opportunities.

How are we addressing trauma informed schools? We are: 
  • Offering training sessions for community agencies that serve youth to help them understand what trauma is and its effects. 
  • Training school districts and individual schools in trauma 101 and also sharing effective practices to support children who have experienced trauma. 
  • Networking Lehigh Valley organizations with each other and also linking our LV work with the state of PA to gain more resources.

Community Schools

How can schools serve as community resource centers?

Due to many variables, there are not equitable resources across the 125+ schools in the Lehigh Valley. Some are situated in neighborhoods with many challenges and serve students and families that have barriers to living well.

Community schools are safe and stable schools that respond to the unique needs of its students, families, and residents. Often this means a community school will partner with organizations in the community and ask them to bring their services to the school. Services can be health-related, such as dental, vision or mental health services or can be geared towards helping families meet basic needs, such as a food pantry, community garden, cooking class or clothing closet. Community schools also work hard to partner with parents so that decisions made at the school create a unified voice of students, families, staff, and community.

How are we addressing Community Schools? 
Community schools transform high need schools into the centers of their communities, by organizing and offering before-school and after-school programs; health and social supports and services, including on-site medical clinics; family and community engagement opportunities and early childhood development and transition practices.