'Gap Map' aims to help low third grade reading levels tied to poverty

Interactive map encourages businesses to get involved
Posted at 7:31 AM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-28 08:19:53-04

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. — Elise Sirhal, a mother of a third-grade student, said she understands the importance of the 3rd grade benchmark when it comes to reading.

"It's extremely important that they are reading fluently in third grade," she said.

She feels fortunate to have the ability to pay for lessons, tutors and more, but knows that's not the case for everyone.

"I do think there is a discrepancy between the schools that have lower poverty levels, because they can't access the resources that schools are giving them when they are home," she said. "Because they have lack of internet, lack of help."

A new interactive tool called the "Florida Gap Map" aims to help improve third grade reading levels.

"That's typically where kids go from learning to read to reading to learn, and so that's an important metric and predictor of future success," Dr. Jerry Parish, the chief economist with the Florida Chamber Foundation, said.

It compares third-grade reading scores for every public school in Florida with childhood poverty rates.

"A lot of people think, 'Well, there is no poverty in my area or no poverty where my business is located,' and they are always wrong," he said.

The goal is to get the community and business leaders involved.

"What we are asking them to do is adopt a classroom," Parish said.

It's a lofty goal that parents think is of the utmost importance.

"If they are not fluently reading by the time they get to third grade, they are going to struggle with everything else," Sirhal said.

To get involved and adopt a classroom, or to look at levels of reading in your community, click here.