The Issues


Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn, and to master the more complex subject matter they encounter in the fourth grade curriculum. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone falter in the later grades and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Yet two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders are not proficient readers, according to national reading assessment data. This disturbing statistic is made even worse by the fact that more than four out of every five low-income students miss this critical milestone.



WAKE Up and Read was founded on the belief that our schools, our families, and our children cannot succeed alone. In order to ensure our students are on the right track, we need engaged communities mobilized to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist families to serve as full partners in the success of their children. Community agencies, civic leaders, businesses, and organizations all play an important role in moving the needle for Wake County children. By focusing on three key areas critical to school success – school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning loss – we are aligning our efforts around grade level reading proficiency and childhood literacy.


School Readiness

We know that children begin learning well before they ever arrive at school. The first three years of life are a critical time in a child’s development that builds the foundation for later success. All too often, children from low-income households begin school behind. Research shows that they are less likely to be read to or to have access to books, literacy-rich environments, high-quality early care, and prekindergarten programs. Consequently, they often hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their peers in middle- and upper-income households before even reaching kindergarten.

School Attendance

School attendance is critically important to a student’s success – children can’t learn effectively if they aren’t in the classroom. Starting in the early grades, the percentage of students missing 10% of the school year can reach remarkably high levels, and these early absences can rob students of the time they need to develop literacy skills. Chronic absences can be an indicator of families and neighborhoods requiring additional resources and support, since poor school attendance can be an early warning sign of challenging social, economic, and health conditions.

Summer Learning Loss

Research shows that children who do not read or participate in enrichment activities during out of school time are at risk of losing 2-3 months of reading development during summer breaks, which slows progress toward third grade reading proficiency. It’s important that children, especially in lower-income communities, have access to high-quality summer learning opportunities and books to continue on a positive trajectory. Multiple rigorous evaluation studies have found that reading just 4-5 books during the summer can prevent summer learning loss.