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One-third of 3rd graders around Kansas City struggle to read. What should be done about it?

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Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
From left: Pauly Hart, Angelique Nedved and Shannon Reasby discuss the decrease in literacy rate in Kansas and Missouri on KCUR's Up To Date on Aug. 24, 2023.

Multiple factors are contributing to lower rates of reading proficiency for students in Missouri and nationwide, including lingering disruptions from the pandemic. Educators and advocates say that a solution to the literacy "crisis" needs to come from the whole community.

One-in-three third graders in the Kansas City region can't read at a basic level— meaning they're at least one grade level behind, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. And for Black and brown students, that percentage is higher.

Pauly Hart, the executive director of Lead to Read KC, calls the high rates of low literacy a "crisis." Reading test scores have dropped since 2019, and Missouri students are still trying to recover from learning deficits caused by the pandemic.

But low rates of reading proficiency have been a problem for years now.

Angelique Nedved, the president and CEO of School Smart KC, says the solution needs to come from more than just classroom teachers. It will also take parents and community members.

"I think we can do so much more coming together as a community and saying 'literacy is critical,'" Nedved said.

Nedved says spaces like grocery stores or doctors' waiting rooms should be designed with learning and literacy for kids in mind.

  • Pauly Hart, Executive Director, Lead to Read KC
  • Angelique Nedved, President and CEO, School Smart KC
  • Shannon Reasby, reading specialist educator
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9, my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. Reach me at steve@kcur.org or on Twitter @stevekraske.
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