We all know there is an achievement gap; it is mentioned in newspapers, online, and on the nightly news. As a former classroom teacher in a Title I elementary school and currently as an urban literacy specialist, I have seen it first hand. I first noticed it when I was teaching first grade in Richmond, Virginia and I had a six-year-old student as tall as me (5'8") enter my classroom from another school in our area. He had the height and life experiences of a middle schooler, and the vocabulary of a todder. He could only recognize a few words, including his name. 

Initially, you ask yourself, "What did they do in kindergarten at his old school that he's so far behind?" Having studied reading education, especially in urban schools, I realize the gap is greater than just one year, one grade level. The gap is evident in children by the age of 3. There is a 30 million word gap between children born in families in poverty versus wealth. Pediatricians and brain researchers are now saying the gap is present by 18 months. This means, my student, along with thousands of students across the US, already was suffering from a 5 year achievement gap at the age of 6 years old. No wonder our struggling readers are exhausted! We are trying to cram 5, 6, 7, or even 8 years of knowledge in one school year.  A recent study showed that 37% of 12th graders assessed were proficient or above in a national reading test.  Our country has 1/3 of 12th graders ready for college academics. This statistic is not improving, rather it's remaining relatively the same in the course of a decade.

So, we know there is an achievement gap. How are we going to decrease this gap? In my position today, I'm pretty much a "fixer." I'm hired by failing schools to fix their reading instruction and scores. I'm thrilled to say that I have successfully turned failing urban elementary schools into fully accredited schools in one year. I've helped schools increase at least 13% in reading scores. I've also help schools increase the 4th and 5th grade population of readers from having 67% to 98% of them reading on or above grade level. This is my job, my educational career, and my passion, but we can make a difference today before more children and more schools suffer.

#TackleReading is a national movement, book, and tour that provides solutions for quality literacy instruction in the US. Thanks to corporate sponsorship, charitable giving, and philanthropic individuals, the Tackle Reading book will be donated directly to children and teachers in Title I schools nationwide. (https://kathrynstarke.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/tackle-reading-2/)

We can help make this happen today simply by purchasing a #TackleReading shirt. Every single shirt purchased gives the gift of reading to a child. Visit  https://teespring.com/tackle-reading ! We only have 10 days left of this special campaign. Then, like Facebook.com/creativemindspublications to get the details of the book production, launch, and tour. All of us can help bridge the achievement gap for our children! And we can start this second.

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Although I applaud your good intentions and noble efforts, the sort of problem we have with urban literacy education cannot be solved by increasing student reading scores.   Until you solve the "environment" problem that these kids have to deal with, as well as the "structural" problem of incompetence and internecine warfare throughout the entire public education system, there is basically very little hope to make a real difference in the lives of these kids.   Which is why we at VOMI launched the Virtual Campus Dormitory Consortium.   

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