More than 120 Communities Plan to Apply for All-America City Grade-Level Reading Award

NLC is serving as a major partner in the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading by supporting city efforts to boost reading proficiency as part of the National Civic League’s 2012 All-America City Grade-Level Reading Awards Competition.

The Campaign is a collaborative, 10-year effort by dozens of foundations and organizations across the country to increase the number of low-income children who read at grade level by the end of third grade - a key developmental milestone and indicator of future academic success. 

At the opening celebration of the All-America City (AAC) Awards competition on June 15, 2011, in Kansas City, Mo., the National Civic League announced that its 2012 AAC program will challenge applicant cities to develop collaborative, community-owned strategies for improving grade-level reading.  Through its Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute), NLC has partnered with the National Civic League to promote the Award and help cities develop their plans.

The All-America City Awards

The National Civic League's signature All-America City Awards program is well known for recognizing outstanding civic accomplishments in our nation's cities and towns.  In 2012, the Awards will focus on communities that address three major obstacles to reading proficiency: a lack of school readiness among younger children, chronic absences that reduce the amount of instructional time received, and summer learning loss in which students lose ground academically in between school years. 

NLC is supporting these efforts by advising the development of the All-America City Grade-Level Reading Award program, encouraging cities to participate in the competition and providing technical assistance in the development and implementation of local plans to improve grade-level reading.  City officials will have the opportunity to participate in audioconferences and various peer learning opportunities as they work with school district, United Way and other community leaders on their grade-level reading plans.  United Way Worldwide and the U.S. Conference of Mayors are also serving as partners in the Grade-Level Reading Award program. 

The Importance of Grade-Level Reading

A recent KIDS COUNT special report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation entitled, "Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters," highlights the academic achievement gaps that develop between disadvantaged students and their peers early in life.  More than 80 percent of students from low-income families do not read proficiently by the end of third grade, putting them at greater risk of dropping out of high school.  Students who drop out are in turn more likely to engage in criminal activity, struggle to find work and have very low lifetime earnings.  When youth do not reach their full potential, the impact is felt most acutely in the cities and towns in which they live.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has set a goal of promoting grade-level reading improvements in the majority of states and increasing by 50 percent the number and proportion of low-income children reading at grade level by the end of third grade in at least a dozen states over the next 10 years.  The Campaign will mobilize city leaders, educators, philanthropic leaders, service providers and parents to close the gap in reading achievement among low-income students and their peers, raise the bar for reading proficiency so that all students are assessed by world-class standards and ensure that all children have an equitable opportunity for meeting those higher standards.

Applying for the Grade-Level Reading Award

Municipal, county and other local leaders in more than 120 communities have submitted plans to boost children's reading proficiency as part of their quest to receive the National Civic League's 2012 All-America City Grade-Level Reading Award. Finalists will be invited to send a delegation to the National Civic League's annual conference in June 2012 for the final round of competition.  The 2012 award will recognize community mobilization efforts, and the 2015 award will spotlight community impact.

The Institute will provide follow-up assistance to support successful plan implementation in communities with strong grade-level reading plans beginning in the summer of 2012.

Toolkit for City Leaders

Municipal officials can access an online toolkit on launching a local campaign for grade-level reading, including examples of citywide campaigns and a resource for city leaders on reducing chronic absence that has been developed by Attendance Works.  This resource offers strategies that local officials can use to lead community and school systems in improving attendance, profiles of cities and selected programs that show how chronic absence can be reduced effectively, and templates and tools for assessing data and identifying barriers to attendance.

For More Information

To learn more about the All-America City Award, visit  To learn more about the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, visit  For more information about how NLC can assist your city in promoting grade-level reading, contact Tonja Rucker at (202) 626-3004 or