Florida Chamber calls on local businesses to help children read

From WCTV.tv

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — According to the Florida Chamber of Commerce, 1,307 third grade students in the Leon County School District cannot read at grade level.

It’s a fact the chamber said coincides with poverty level.

“That’s a problem the business community wants to do something about,” said Mark Wilson, President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “It’s a solvable issue.”

Wilson broke down the poverty numbers by zip code during the annual Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Breakfast. According to his presentation, which took numbers from the US Census Bureau, zip code 32304 has the most households in Leon County living in poverty. At 9,131 households, it’s also the highest zip code in the state living under poverty.

The next highest zip code was 32303 with 3,979 living in poverty, followed by 32301 with 2,951.

Zip code 32304 is also the area with the most children under five living in poverty, with 749 falling into that category.

The numbers align with education levels.

Only 30 percent of third graders can read at grade level at John Riley
Elementary school, which is in zip code 32304. That’s one of the lowest schools in the district.

At Bond Elementary only 26 percent of third graders can read at grade level. At Pineview, only 17 percent. Both are in zip code 32310, which is the third highest area with children living in poverty, with 627 children falling in that level.

School Board member Alva Striplin said the numbers aren’t surprising.

“They’re like railroad tracks. Students that live in poverty, how are they expected to learn when they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from?” she said.

Wilson is now calling on the business community to step in to make a difference.

“We have a responsibility to find out who these kids are. And we need to do everything we can to help them read at grade level. Because chances are if they can do that, they’re going to be just fine as they get older,” he said. “Our kids, up until third grade they’re learning how to read. But, after that they’re reading to learn.”

He suggests that businesses located within these high poverty zip codes adopt a classroom or grade level and help provide support.

Striplin said simple resources like providing snacks for a food pantry or coats during the winter can have a ripple effect, allowing students to perform better at school and ultimately improving the community as a whole.

“It’s only going to have a positive ripple effect for our community. It’s
going to strengthen our community. It’s going to make people want to stay here. If every school in our community is an A or a B, who would not want to live here?” she said.