MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Nearly 3,500 Manatee County students in kindergarten through third grade are not reading at grade level. On Monday, educators revealed a plan aimed at cutting that number in half in the next five years.
It's called "The Big Plan" and is based on a partnership between the Manatee County School District, the United Way Suncoast and other community partners.
In the 2017-2018 school year, 75 percent of third graders at Manatee County's 10 Title I schools could not read on their grade level.
"It's a big number, which is why you have to have a big plan," said Cynthia Saunders, Manatee County Schools Superintendent.
United Way Suncoast is providing some funding like this check for one thousand dollars to the pilot schools of the program as well as enlisting volunteers to help spend more one-on-one time with kids who struggle with reading.
"Children who don’t read on grade level by the time they leave third grade, are four times more likely to drop out of high school," said Bronwyn Beightol, president of United Way Suncoast.
One of those schools is Palm View Elementary School in Palmetto.
"When you can take down some barriers and put some extra things into place, that would make a student feel a little more confident in the classroom," said Kaththea Johnson, the Palm View Elementary School Principal.
The district says there are many parts of "The Big Plan." One is working outside of the school to help kids who struggle. Another is training community volunteers to tutor kids in reading before, after and during school.
"These extra interventions, we feel, are going to make a significant difference," said Saunders.
If you are interested in volunteering in becoming a United Way ReadingPal or LearningPal can click here for more information.