Kansas City named ‘All-America City’ for its Turn the Page KC reading crusade

Kansas City is back as an All-America City, and this time the children have made it happen with their reading.

The National Civic League challenged member cities to join in a crusade to get all children reading at grade level by the third grade, and Kansas City, with its Turn the Page KC effort, was one of 15 cities nationwide to win.

“We whooped and hollered,” said Turn the Page KC Executive Director Mike English, describing the moment at the award ceremony in Denver on Friday when Kansas City was the first winner named.

Kansas City has now won All-America City honors five times over the award’s 65 year history. The annual award is given out for cities that promote healthy living and civic innovation.

The number of agencies collaborating in the effort are numerous, including school districts and charter schools, the Kansas City and Mid-Continent public libraries, Lead to Read, the United Way, Literacy Lab, the Local Investment Commission and others that marshaled hundreds of professionals and volunteers to the cause.

“We applaud the big-tent coalitions in these award-winning communities,” Ralph Smith, the managing director of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, said in a written statement. “They put a stake in the ground around third-grade reading and made some big bets to improve the odds for early school success.”

Mayor Sly James and others launching the Turn the Page KC movement did so sharing the belief that the community’s children and their ability to read are a supreme investment in future prosperity.

Friday, the day of the award announcement, “will go down as one of the most important days in the history of Kansas City,” said Bert Berkley, chairman of Tension Envelope Corp., and a longtime promoter of education and health programs.

“There have been minor events such as winning a World Series, but now our town can be known as, “The City that Reads,” he wrote in a celebratory email.

Turn the Page, launched by James in 2011, wanted to help focus the efforts of the many people and programs already invested in helping children read.

An analysis by The Star found that city children’s performance on Missouri’s third grade reading exam has been growing and narrowing the gap between the average performance statewide.

“Turn the Page is a catalyst, but our community shares this honor,” James said in a written statement.

The city effort focused on preparing children for kindergarten, reducing chronic absenteeism and increasing participation in summer reading programs.