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Literacy leads workforce development efforts in Little Rock

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"Every state, every community, every county, every region is addressing workforce through higher education," says Mitch Chandler, COO of the Little Rock Region Chamber of Commerce. "One of the things that we're doing that is different than others and really exemplary is AR Kids Read."
AR Kids Read is a community-based grassroots effort bringing together different people from the community to make sure all children read at a third-grade level by the time they leave third grade -- a critical educational benchmark shown to have a significant impact on future development.
"Everybody agrees that children need to read at a third grade level when they leave third grade," says Chandler. "Before third grade you learn to read. Then you read to learn."
Right now, 31% of third grade students in Arkansas read below a third grade level. AR Kids Read brings volunteers in from throughout the community -- social groups, church groups, other organizations -- to volunteer for 12 hours a semester, or one hour per week, to work with and mentor children in the third grade. Volunteer duties are designed to be close to home for the volunteers who give their time to children who need a little extra help to get to that third grade level.
The program is a little over six months old and is a primary focus for the Chamber.

"It really takes workforce issues down to a third grade level," says Chandler. He explains in professional terms, saying that to get high-tech jobs people must be proficient and literate. "You can't start when they're 17 years old; you have to start when they're children. It opens up a whole new world to them. They can learn anything from there."

Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
Source: Mitch Chandler, COO, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce
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