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Fort Worth's 'Big, Audacious Goal': Get All Kids Reading On Grade Level By 3rd Grade

Miguel Perez
Anel Mercado, the new executive director of Read Fort Worth, speaks to KERA's Rick Holter in studio.

Fort Worth has set an ambitious goal: to have every third grader reading on grade level by 2025. That's the key milestone for a public-private effort called Read Fort Worth, which just hired a new executive director, Anel Mercado.

For this week's Friday Conversation, Mercadeo talks about the biggest challenges facing the public-private partnership dubbed Read Fort Worth.

Interview Highlights

On the importance of reading at third grade level

"It's a pivotal moment. You're learning to read up until you get to third grade. After third grade, you're reading to learn. It's also that space where early childhood matters. What happens in early childhood and pre-K is a big piece. Whether you're going to graduate high school on time or go onto college can really be hinged on whether or not you can read on level by third grade.

"To gain momentum and build capacity around something like this, you want to have a big, audacious goal. Is it doable? Sure. If you throw enough resources and effort into it, you can get really close." 

On the challenges Read Fort Worth faces

"How do we mobilize around the social and emotional health pieces that often hinder families or kids from accessing with equity all of the different systems that will get them ready for pre-K and kingergarden and then, on level for third grade? That's a piece that's hard to get a handle around. 

"We're never going to win against poverty. There isn't a 'Let's squash poverty' strategy. So, it really is around how to ensure that there's access to care, how do we engage families so they have the tools they need to work with their kids at home, and how do we help decrease familiy mobility and stabilize their housing."

Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.

Take a look at Read Fort Worth's Summer Scholars program 

Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.
Miguel Perez is an assistant producer at KERA. He produces local content for Morning Edition and KERA News. He also produces The Friday Conversation, a weekly interview series with North Texas newsmakers.