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Read to Succeed: Preparing students for kindergarten

Helping preschoolers to be kindergarten-ready is critical to future success.

90 percent of a child’s brain develops before age five, with the most significant development happening before age three. This means those years before kindergarten are so important in determining later literacy success.

One way United Way is investing in early literacy is through our Read to Succeed program, a comprehensive early childhood learning model that builds literacy and social-emotional skills for preschoolers who need it most. Read to Succeed works to ensure that kids—regardless of social or economic challenges—have the tools they need to reach their highest potential.

Read to Succeed started in Nashville in 2004 when only 33 percent of five-year-olds were testing kindergarten-ready. Studies show that if a child is ready to learn to read by the time they enter kindergarten, they are more likely to be reading at or above grade level by third grade, which is the turning point when students go from learning to read to reading to learn.  

“If they aren’t reading well by this point, they aren’t going to be able to read their social studies texts, understand their math problems or follow directions on their science experiment,” says Leslie Watt, United Way’s Director of Community Impact for Education. “It affects everything.”

In fact, students who are able to read on grade level by third grade are more likely to graduate from high school, earn a livable wage and stay out of the criminal justice system.

Read to Succeed prepares students for kindergarten by focusing strongly on literacy, social-emotional development and the components of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), with a strong emphasis on home-to-school connection because it’s proven that encouragement from parents and family members helps to build confidence.

Since the program's inception, each year more than 90 percent of Read to Succeed students assess as kindergarten-ready upon completion of the RTS program. In 2018, 100 percent of students assessed as kindergarten-ready.

Read to Succeed offers highly-qualified instructional coaches, research-based curriculums, professional development, listening, writing and technology centers, parental engagement, lending libraries and participant assessments. Children enrolled in the program develop skills in vocabulary, phonological awareness, print awareness, upper and lower case letter recognition, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and self-regulation.

United Way operates eight Read to Succeed classrooms in multiple early childhood centers across Nashville, including Eighteenth Avenue Family Enrichment Center, Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, First Steps, Inc., King’s Daughters Child Development Center, McNeilly Center for Children, St. Luke’s Community House, St. Mary Villa Child Development Center and Wayne Reed Christian Childcare Center.

Learn how United Way is working to give every child in our community an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.