Facebook5Tweet0Pin0 Submitted by United Way of Thurston CountyEducators and policymakers of all stripes will be donning their Cat-in-the-Hat hats this week and reading to young children to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday. United Way, in our partnership with the National Education Association and teachers everywhere, is proud to celebrate Read Across America Day on March 1. It’s a fun way to celebrate books and reading, but our commitment to early literacy must be sustained every day of the year.Across the country, two-thirds of our 3rd graders aren’t reading on grade level, which means they’re four times as likely to drop out of high school later on. And the outlook is even worse for disadvantaged students. A staggering 83% of 4th graders from low-income families don’t read on grade level.We all want opportunity for our children. But kids who don’t read well by 3rd or 4th grade tend to fall farther behind, as they start reading to learn. Too many check out, drop out and fail to reach their potential. It’s no exaggeration to say that helping kids read well can help us close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, support our local economy and build a strong community.Families, schools and communities have to work together. We have the power to change our nation’s future if we work together to help struggling readers in elementary school. Teachers can’t do it alone. Families may not know exactly what to do to help their child read, or to spot a reading problem early on. Here in Thurston County, United Way volunteers read with children at Hansen, Madison, garfield and Pioneer Elementary in the Olympia School District; Pleasant Glade and South Bay Elementary in the North Thurston School District; Peter G. Schmidt in the Tumwater School District and Grand Mound Elementary in the Rochester School District.But the truth is, all of us can be part of the solution. You can read out loud to your child, or grandchild, tonight. You can volunteer to read to kids in your local child care center, or elementary school, next week. You can volunteer as a tutor or mentor at Big Brothers Big Sisters, speak up at your local school board meeting, or donate books to your local library or after school program. If you wish to become a School-based Reading Buddy or volunteer with kids at WET Science Center, Evergreen Vista Afterschool Program, The HandsOn Children’s Museum, the South Sound Reading Foundation, contact United Way of Thurston County at 360.943.2773 x 22 or www.unitedway-thurston.org/volunteerTake action. Because change doesn’t happen without you.