One area of focus for our education committee is exploring ways to increase reading proficiency for our students. Currently, Arkansas ranks in the lower third of reading scores compared to other states with just 31% of Arkansas 4th graders reading at a proficient level.


Although classes are dismissed, the summer months are still crucial to our efforts to improve. Numerous studies indicate that students who don’t read or read infrequently during their summer vacation see their reading abilities stagnate or decline. This effect becomes more pronounced as students get older and advance through the school system.


This summer, we want to direct your attention to programs made available in conjunction with the R.I.S.E. (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) initiative launched earlier this year by the Arkansas Department of Education..


R.I.S.E. has three main goals:


· Increase the number of students in grades three through eight who meet the ACT Aspire reading readiness benchmark by 10 percent within three years;


· Rise above the bottom third in state comparisons within five years on the fourth-grade NAEP reading assessment; and


· Increase the number of graduates meeting The ACT reading readiness benchmark by 10 percent within five years.


#RISEArkansas Book Talks help promote a positive reading culture in Arkansas by suggesting interesting books for students to read and encouraging them to become lifelong readers and learners. All readers are encouraged to participate and post their book talk with the hashtag.


Students in grades K-12 are the primary audience. Students are encouraged to do their own book talks and post the videos to social media using the following hashtag: #RISEArkansas.


Another program available promotes literacy through your pediatrician or family doctor. Reach Out and Read promotes early literacy through well-child visits. Children are given a book and parents are given encouragement to read to their children. To find a participating health clinic, visit arkansased.gov.


On the website, you can also find more information about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which provides free books to children from birth to age 5.


And be sure to remember all the resources available to you and your family at your local library this summer. You can find your nearest library location at www.library.arkansas.gov .