Outside of parental support, 3rd grade reading proficiency has the biggest impact on the probability that a child will graduate from high school. If a young student cannot read on grade level by 3rd grade, their chances of succeeding in subsequent grades without reading intervention decreases tremendously. In 2010, only 43.9% of 3rd graders scored proficient or above on the TCAP reading assessment. To help remedy this problem, the Department of Education set a goal that 60% of all Tennessee 3rd graders read at a proficient level or above by 2014. Last year’s scores showed that 3rd grade reading proficiency improved to 46%, this progress is encouraging, but there is still much room for literacy improvement in Tennessee.
Crissy supports DOE’s Early Grades Reading Delivery plan by promoting a statewide READ20 campaign to highlight the value of Tennessee students and families reading for at least 20 minutes each day. Without appropriate grade level reading, children are not equipped for the transition from acquiring reading skills to using the skill to learn other things.
In summer 2012, Crissy launched the READ20 Family Book Club to give Tennessee families a fun goal of reading together with their children for at least 20 minutes each day. One book is selected each month as the featured “Book of the Month,” but families are encouraged to continue reading other books after they’ve finished the Book of the Month. The First Lady’s READ20 Family Book Club also features activities to coincide with each book of the month for families to connect through fun, educational time together.
Mrs. Haslam has participated in events throughout the state to promote the READ20 Family Book Club, including visits to minor league baseball games, military bases, county fairs, elementary schools, and public libraries.
The Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, housed in the Office of the First Lady, partners with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to manage the statewide implementation of the Imagination Library program. Dolly's vision was to foster a love of reading among preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month, regardless of their family’s income, from birth to age three. By mailing high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their homes, the Imagination Library helps children to be excited about reading. Fostering love for reading during a child’s earliest years encourages a lifetime of learning and success in school and in life.
In 2004, the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation was created to serve as a supportive resource to establish and sustain Imagination Libraries in all of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The Foundation serves Imagination Library offices mainly by providing fundraising, public relations, and other support. As a supporter of Tennessee’s Imagination Library affiliates, Crissy is working with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation to better promote the program.
In June 2014, Crissy launched the READ20 Book Patrol, an initiative partnering with law enforcement across the state to encourage summer reading and build positive relationships with law enforcement. As part of the project, Mrs. Haslam and police officers delivered books over the summer to children who might not have access to books in their home. Summer is a critical time for reading, as students who do not practice their literacy skills while they are out of school can fall years behind in reading. Improving literacy can help a child be more successful in school and in life; it can also help reduce criminal behavior in a community, as people who have low literacy are statistically more likely to be involved in crime.