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Our History

Read Charlotte was established in 2015, after test scores showed only 40% of Charlotte’s third graders were reading on grade level. The community recognized this as a crisis, as reading proficiency at third grade is a critical predictor of school, career, and life success.

What began as a community conversation took shape as a community initiative, with support from local business, nonprofit, education, philanthropic, and civic leaders. Scroll for a timeline of the history of Read Charlotte.

In 2014, The Belk Foundation gathered representatives from local foundations, businesses, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library to discuss the scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The group organized a Third Grade Reading Task Force, which met throughout 2014 to define the goal, scope, and pillars of a potential community-wide collective impact effort around early literacy. Based on input from local and national experts and feedback from community focus groups, the Task Force decided to move forward with a bold goal to double third grade reading outcomes over the next decade.

In 2015, Read Charlotte launched with support from local leaders, with the Task Force reorganized as its governing board.

After a national search, Munro Richardson was hired to lead the initiative and spent much of that first summer on a listening tour, meeting with nonprofit, business, and civic leaders to learn more about Charlotte-Mecklenburg. Over the next two years, Richardson recruited and hired a team, and gave hundreds of presentations across the community to raise awareness about the importance of early literacy.

Simultaneously, working groups were established to help frame Read Charlotte’s work, with more than three dozen citizens selected for the groups to represent a broad swath of the community.

The working groups developed a 10-year strategic plan and identified community indicators to track progress.

Read Charlotte hosted a series of systems change workshops.

Also during the first two years, Read Charlotte hosted a series of systems change workshops, to better understand how the local system (the set of interacting and interdependent parts – families, child care programs, schools, public agencies, nonprofits, etc. – that collectively affect how children develop as readers) works, and develop strategies to improve it.

After two years of research and alignment, Read Charlotte began to move into implementation in collaboration with partners across the community.

Our work has been focused in the classroom, community, and home, to bring evidence-based knowledge, practices, resources, and models to our community. Work in these areas has included:

  • Classroom: Pre-K and K-3 pilots of A2i, a promising platform that helps teachers identify the reading needs of each child.
  • Community: Tutoring programs like HELPS, an intervention that improves students’ reading fluency, and initiatives to address summer learning loss, like Summer Literacy Infusion.
  • Home: Family-focused resources including Active ReadingHome Reading Helper, and Ready4K.
When the pandemic began in 2020, much of Read Charlotte’s work shifted to respond to the crisis as it unfolded.

We first focused on the KeepLearningCLT initiative, a curated collection of online resources that aligned with the CMS curriculum to supplement learning at home. We later worked with Learning Ovations, the company behind A2i, to develop Reading Checkup, an online tool for families to use at home to learn their child’s reading level and get tailored activities to build literacy skills.

Post-pandemic, Read Charlotte saw a need to reevaluate our timeline, as the impact of two years of disrupted learning became apparent in the latest test scores.

Given the impact of the pandemic, coupled with new insights driving our work, we extended our organizational timeline from 2025 to 2030, and moved from a single goal to four staggered goals and deadlines. We remain focused on creating enduring systems change that leads to 80% (or more) of our third graders reading at College and Career Ready. 

Community Children’s Reading Initiative | Read Charlotte
Community Children’s Reading Initiative | Read Charlotte

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