Kent County Libraries join forces to increase student reading scores

All of the libraries in Kent County have teamed up with the Kent Intermediate School District and the Literacy Center of West Michigan to form Partners in Reading Success. The group is pleased to launch Mission Read, a reading program designed to help young and beginning readers pass new Michigan reading proficiency requirements. The mission is to read for 1,000 days before 6th grade.

Reading assessments conducted in 2016 show that only 46 percent of third-graders passed the English language arts exam. Of the 54 percent who did not pass, 25 percent were deemed “partially proficient” and 29 percent were “not proficient.” The strategy behind Mission Read is to help beginning readers develop a daily reading habit and improve reading proficiency.

“There’s an urgent need to help these kids,” explains Mark Raffler, English Language Arts Consultant at Kent Intermediate School District. “When kids love to read, everything else in school comes more easily and with greater effectiveness. The results of good reading habits carry throughout their schooling and into adult life.”

The first objective of Mission Read is to help instill strong reading habits and improve overall reading assessment scores. Families with beginning readers (kindergarten through grade three) can sign up for Mission Read at Cedar Springs Public Library, Sparta Township Library, any Grand Rapids Public library location or any Kent District Library location. For every 100 days of reading, each participant will get a planet sticker. The 500 day prize is a book and the 1,000 day prize is a digital tablet reader.

The second objective of Mission Read is to help students with low reading assessment scores. When an in-school assessment identifies one or more of five specific reading skills that need improvement, the student and family are referred to their local public library. Public libraries throughout Kent County have curated books and activities aimed at strengthening these specific skills.

Mike Nassar, Director of the Community Literacy Initiative at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, said “Mission Read adds a new dimension to public libraries as a powerful resource for schools and, most importantly, for beginning and developing readers. This is precisely the type of collaboration that can help us move the needle for early literacy.”

Starting in the 2019-20 school year, students who are at least one grade level behind in reading by the end of third-grade will be held back, although superintendents have the option to grant exemptions in some instances. This new law is aimed at improving childhood literacy and is based on research showing that high literacy scores among third graders is a key predictor of student academic success.

Beginning in Kindergarten, all students are assessed three times per year to measure their reading progress. Students reading below grade level will have an Individual Reading Improvement Plan (IRIP) which must be provided by the teacher and shared with parents. The IRIP identifies up to five specific reading skills that may need improvement. These skills include phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. It also includes a “Read at Home Plan” to encourage reading support outside of school.

Third-grade students will be tested near the end of the school year with the M-STEP reading assessment. If their score is below the threshold, they may not advance to fourth grade

To learn more about Mission Read, visit