Colorado Reads: Early Literacy Initiative

Colorado ReadsColorado Reads logoColorado Reads: the Early Literacy Initiative is a statewide joint effort to ensure all Colorado children read at or above grade level by the end of 3rd grade. Though Colorado is well known for having a family friendly atmosphere and being a great place to raise children, we are doing our kids a disservice when it comes to ensuring our children can read. The 2011 Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) test scores showed that 26% of third graders tested below grade level expectations in reading. Colorado Reads: the Early Literacy Initiative is not a single program or department’s efforts to improve statewide reading scores; it is a comprehensive, multi-faceted state, county, community, school and business collaboration of efforts to tackle this issue on every level. SERVE Colorado coordinates the community based efforts of Colorado Reads.

Fast Facts and Highlights of Improvements since 2011:

  • In just one year since the passage of the READ Act, the number of students identified as having a Significant Reading Deficiency was reduced by 5,000 students, yet READ scores were included for nearly 5,000 additional students
  • Assessments required through the READ Act provide information on necessary, essential early literacy skills, such as letters, sounds and syllables... the foundational skills of how children learn to read
  • A first grade student who is not identified correctly as having an early literacy issue has an 88% probability of being a poor reader in 4th grade... consider a poor reader in first grade requires 15 minutes of intervention daily to catch up whereas a poor reader in 4th grade requires 90 minutes of intervention daily to catch up
  • In just one year the number of students Adams 12 and Denver Public Schools saw statistically significant gains in math across all grades; Denver also saw statistically significant gains in writing
  • Center School District that has been working tirelessly to implement the new standards, educator evaluation systems, and READ Act saw a 7.6% gain in the percent of students proficient and advanced across all grade levels in reading; and 8% gain in writing
  • Del Norte saw a 7.8% in the percent proficient and advanced across all grade levels in reading and 9.7% increase in writing across all grade levels
  • Rocky Ford which has been working very hard to improve school/district performance saw a 7.7% increase in reading across all grades; and a 9.6% gain in writing
  • Westminster 50 which has been on a solid path to implementing competency-based learning saw a 2.4% increase in reading across all grades; and a 2.1% increase in writing
  • Lincoln Middle School in Poudre made solid gains in students’ literacy performance. In one year, they moved from 53.6% of student proficient and advanced in reading to 60.8% proficient and advanced
    Source: Colorado Department of Education, 2014 TCAP Data Results

Colorado ReadsSince Colorado Reads:  The Early Literacy Initiative launched with a bus ride throughout the state in 2011, the wheels have continued to turn at the local level. Corporations, nonprofit organizations, school districts and other partners are taking action. Below are just a few of the many local literacy initiatives that are helping children develop a love of reading and become proficient readers by third grade.

Alamosa.  Social Innovation Fund Grants - By June 30, 2014, Mile High United Way’s Early Literacy Social Innovation Fund grants will have reached an estimated 20,000 children and families in more than half of the counties in Colorado. Grantees provide a myriad of evidenced-based services and supports, like the home visitation program in Alamosa, that are known to improve literacy. The Social Innovation Fund resources support 10 non-profit grantees throughout Colorado.

Aurora.  Reading Partners is harnessing the invaluable power of over 315 volunteers serving 268 K-3 students to make significant advances in narrowing literacy achievement gaps and accelerating learning rates. Equipped with a research-based curriculum with structured lesson plans, Reading Partners volunteers provide one-on-one tutoring in several metro area elementary schools.

Buckley Air Force Base.  Power Lunch is another one-one-one tutoring strategy that brings together business and schools to help students develop a love of reading. Volunteers are paired with students for weekly reading time throughout the school year. Currently, adults from 7 participating organizations, including Buckley Air Force Base, tutor in 5 elementary schools; with over 100 third graders and over 175 volunteers participating. The 2013-2014 school year will see more than double the growth with 20 local businesses slated to join Power Lunch.

Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, and Larimer County. Colorado Reading Corps, launched during the 2013 school year, is an AmeriCorps program that provides literacy tutors for children in kindergarten to third grade. 75 AmeriCorps members, trained in literacy interventions and supported by expert coaches, reach 1,500 struggling readers in Colorado schools. The program has been tremendously successful; every school is reporting student literacy gains. 

Telluride.  Too often children view books as chores rather than friends. Raising a Reader and Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy are working hard to change this outlook. Raising a Reader rotates award-winning books into households on a weekly basis. Local partners train parents and caregivers in reading-aloud techniques that promote cognitive development and literacy. This large-scale book sharing effort connects children and families with libraries, and fosters a love of reading that is central to the Colorado Reads mission. 

Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy (CLEL) is a collaboration of Colorado public libraries dedicated to delivering literacy services to children and families in communities throughout Colorado. CLEL is working to reestablish public libraries as bustling centers where families and children together develop literacy skills and a love of reading.          

Colorado ReadsHot Sulphur Springs. Sixty-one percent of low-income families have no books at all in the home.[1] Helping to reverse this statistic, Reach Out and Read (ROR) provides books for young children and trains physicians on how to educate parents about the importance of reading aloud. With a special focus on families in poverty, physicians help families build home libraries and prepare children for school. Almost 200 Reach Out and Read clinics are spread throughout 48 of Colorado’s 64 counties.

[1] Heart of American Foundation,


Learn more about our partners and the steps they are taking to help improve literacy in Colorado.

State Partners: 
Colorado Department of Education Early Literacy
Colorado Pre-School Program
Colorado Department of Human Services - Office of Early Childhood
Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant
Early Childhood Leadership Commission
Colorado School Libraries
Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing

Community Partners:
Reach Out & Read Colorado
Denver Pre-School Program
Mile High United Way
Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation
Cydney & Tom Marsico Foundation
Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Trust
Daniels Fund
Southwest Community Foundation
Aspen Community Foundation
Telluride Foundation
United Way of Larimer County
United Way of Weld County
Statewide Early Childhood Councils
Anschutz Family Foundation