How strong readers become a strong workforce How strong readers become a strong workforce

How strong readers become a strong workforce

Why corporations are supporting early childhood literacy programs; 4 ways to help your child’s reading


How well children read by third grade can determine how well they do in life. But learning to read, it just so happens, involves more than words on a page.

Read Charlotte and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Library committed to double third grade reading proficiency by 2025.

When Rachel and Anthony sat on the floor with their 2-year-old son at an active reading workshop at Charlotte, N.C.’s Scaleybark library, they didn’t just read through the picture book, “I Stink.” They stopped to talk with Marcus about unfamiliar words and pantomime the words.

“Who am I?” Anthony read. “I’ve got lights. Ten W-I-D-E tires. …”  

Before turning the page, Anthony turned to Marcus: “Do you know what ‘wide’ means?”

4 ways to help your child’s reading

1. Talk with your child as much as possible. Talk about what you see, what you’re doing and what you’re thinking.

2. Do brain building activities. That could be playing a game of hopscotch outside your house or exploring the differences between the leaves in the trees at a park.

3. Read with your child at least three times a week. Read any time, at snack time, during play or before bed. Talking about the pictures in a book is just as good as reading the words.

4. Make sure your child is in school.

More information: Read Charlotte

He showed his son: “Not like this,” he said, holding his hands close together. “Like this,” he said, extending them wide apart.

Marcus, who was 2, mimicked his father. “Wide!,” he squealed and spread his hands as far apart as he could.

The library’s active reading workshops are one of a number of programs supported by the two-year-old Read Charlotte initiative. The nonprofit formed after a national study found that only 40 percent of third-graders in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools read on grade level. If children are behind by third grade, studies show, they are likely to never catch up.

Alarmed by the statistics and what they could mean for the economy, Duke Energy joined other corporations in investing $5 million toward the first five years of Read Charlotte, which hopes to double the literacy rate by 2025. (Duke Energy’s share: $500,000.)

The company has also partnered with literacy programs in other states: In South Carolina, with Reading is Fundamental to provide a summer reading program; in Indiana, with the Power of Reading Summit for teacher professional development.

Why is an energy company supporting literacy programs?

Think of it as an investment in the future.

Literacy is related to long-term workforce planning and economic competitiveness. A study from the Business Roundtable found that nearly 98 percent of chief executives reported challenges finding workers with the necessary skills.

Active reading workshops are designed for families with children ages 2-5. Adults learn how to engage with their children using words, pictures and ideas found in kids’ picture books.

“Investing in programs that build our current and future workforce is critical not just for our company, but also for our region’s continued economic growth,” said Jennifer DeWitt, Duke Energy director of foundation programs and community affairs who also serves on the board of Read Charlotte. “We believe that bright futures begin with strong reading skills. Supporting literacy programs at an early age prepares students for success in school, which leads to career opportunities.” 

Munro Richardson, executive director of Read Charlotte, said the nonprofit looks forward to working with Duke Energy employees to teach them about active reading and how to use it, whether with their own children or with children they volunteer to help.

Munro Richardson, executive director of Read Charlotte.

The active reading program is one of a number of partnerships between Read Charlotte and literacy groups. Read Charlotte’s job is to coordinate the various programs. Another partnership involves Reach Out and Read Carolinas, which encourages doctors conducting well-child visits to prescribe reading aloud every day. The program provides books for families to take home.

Richardson said third grade “is the dividing line between learning to read and reading to learn.”


“Imagine ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ a typical third-grade book,” Richardson said. “A child who is able to appreciate ‘Charlotte’s Web’ on his or her own, that child has a 90 percent chance of graduating from high school. However, if that child is not able to read ‘Charlotte’s Web’ or a book like that by the end of third grade, that child is four times more likely to drop out of high school.”

Richardson likens the situation to running a marathon. “Some kids are at the starting line,” he said. “Others are 100 yards back. But they have to run the same race. Our job at Read Charlotte is to try to get as many of those kids at the starting line.”

Only if they learn to read, he said, can they read to learn.

Support for reading programs

Duke Energy supports literacy programs across its service territories, including:

Citrus County Education Foundation – First Library Program (Florida)

The First Library program is an early literacy initiative that provides students in kindergarten with books throughout the school year. The goal of the program is to put books in the hands of pre-k and kindergarten students with the hope they will be encouraged to read at home and start their own first library. The program consists of “read-in days" throughout the school year, during which volunteers read a selected book with the students that they get to take home.

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County – Summer Camp Reading Program (Ohio)

The Summer Camp Reading Program is a six-week intensive literacy program that targets 3,000 struggling second-grade readers in the Cincinnati public schools. Each camp has 12 campers with curriculum of daily tutoring, fun literacy activities and confidence building. The goal is to improve reading skills and give them the confidence and education needed to pass the Third Grade State of Ohio Proficiency test.

Northern Kentucky Education Council – One to One Reading and Math With Students (Kentucky)

One to One Reading and Math Program provides early academic intervention to place students on a trajectory in their reading and math skills, while affecting attitudes and motivation. Students benefit from the support coaches provided as a trained volunteer. Both reading and math coaches complete a comprehensive training focused on best practice strategies delivered by a One to One consultant. One to One has coached over 2,900 children and maintains a consistent measure of progress over the past eight years.

United Way of Monroe County – Real Men Read Program (Indiana)

With the goal of providing young children adult male role models for literacy, the Real Men Read Program brings male volunteers into kindergarten classrooms at Spencer-Owen Community Schools (S-OCS) once a month to read a story, visit with the students and demonstrate the fun and value of reading. Each student receives a copy of the book being read so that they can follow along with the story and build their own library.

Reading is Fundamental – Read for Success (South Carolina)

In South Carolina, Duke Energy partners with Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest children’s literacy organization, to reduce the summer slide and improve the reading proficiency of more than 3,000 second-graders. The program is available in 36 Title I elementary schools in the Pee Dee region in northeast South Carolina. 


More Stories About Making a Difference