Community and business leaders gather to focus on kids, crime and poverty

What do third grade reading levels have to do with levels of crime in a community?

Plenty, says Jay Connor, keynote speaker at REACH Edmonton’s fifth annual general meeting (AGM) and anniversary showcase.

“In North America, the apparatus of education shifts after third grade,” said Connor, founder/chief executive officer of The Collaboratory for Community Support. “Up until third grade, the focus is learning to read. After third grade, it shifts to reading to learn.”

“About a third of our kids are not at that essential reading level when they leave Grade 3 and it’s disproportionately high among children living in poverty,” said Connor.

The evidence is clear that many of our children are facing this disadvantage, with nearly 20 percent of Edmonton students not completing high school.

“When children pass into grade four without the reading skills they need, they are six times more likely to become involved with the criminal justice system,” said Connor. “When reading levels among third graders are improved, there are real radiating benefits for the safety issues that REACH and the community are looking at.”

In addition to speaking at REACH Edmonton’s AGM, Connor is meeting with nearly 60 community and business leaders at a working luncheon hosted by the Mayor’s Office and REACH.

In recent years, Connor has worked with communities in New York and Philadelphia to create practical change on third-grade reading levels and has seen positive results.

“We’ve been moving that needle on reading and once you get that improvement, it can be sustained throughout the child’s education. Then, those kids are more able to be successful and more likely to succeed in post-secondary education,” he said. “That’s why we call it a keystone outcome: it’s one of the key ways we can break that cycle of poverty and crime.”

Jay Connor is the Founder/CEO of The Collaboratory for Community Support. He has extensive leadership experience in the business, nonprofit and public policy areas. He has spoken to audiences across North America and internationally on a broad range of subjects which have, at their root, the elements of change and leadership development fundamental to success in each of these sectors.