Concern grows over school reading levels in Kansas City, Missouri

Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 9:11 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Some Kansas City, Missouri, leaders are calling the alarming number of students in 3rd grade “a state of crisis.”

Lead to Read’s Executive Director Pauly Hart said some KCMO schools’ 3rd grade reading levels are unacceptable.

“Unfortunately, we have a 20% reading proficiency among our 3rd graders who attend Kansas City Public Schools and Charter Schools,” Pauly said. “That’s a terrible number. Nobody should be satisfied with it. Nobody should ignore it.”

With 80% of 3rd graders performing below average, it is even more alarming with minorities.

Hart said that, for students attending KCPS and Charter Schools, only 165 Black 3rd graders are “proficient” or “advanced.” For Hispanic students, only 98 made the cut.

“I think that the challenge is that it is just not about literacy,” said Ruth Pullins, University Health’s Chief Human Resources and DE&I Officer. “It’s about the fact that some of us don’t have the wherewithal for food or to pay light bills or to provide transportation to work.”

It’s one reason Lead to Read held its inaugural Lunch and Learn Event. It featured a panel of Kansas City business and civic leaders who discussed the impact literacy will have on the city’s future workforce.

“I think that children are our future,” Pullins added. “That sounds very corny, but they are. In order for us to protect our future, we’re faced with a literacy crisis. We must do something about it.”

Engagement is also key. Lead to Read has teamed up with the Mahomes Foundation on “Read for 15″ to encourage students to read for 15 minutes every day outside of school.

“If anyone can get children to read for 15 minutes a day, it’s Patrick Mahomes,” Hart said.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes established “Read for 15″ in 2019. The goal is to support initiatives that focus on health, wellness, and communities in need of resources.