Literacy and a Child’s Pathway to Success

Read Time: 2 minutes
By: Jenessa Hefler
September 27, 2018

The stats

Many of us have heard the myth that prisons are built based on third grade reading scores… it’s since been debunked, but sadly, the underlying idea has some truth in it- data shows that children who cannot read by third grade are four times less likely to graduate than students who can read by third grade [1]. Furthermore, high school dropouts are three times more likely to be incarcerated than their graduating counterparts [2]. Literacy is not a stand alone issue- race, income level, and parental education all play a role as well- for example, one-third of low-income African-American and Hispanic students who did not read proficiently by the end of third grade failed to graduate—about twice as many as similar white children [3].

So where does Fresno stand in all of this?

42% of California 3rd graders are reading proficiently.
38% of Fresno County 3rd graders are reading proficiently
28% of Fresno Unified 3rd graders are reading proficiently [4]

Feeling overwhelmed yet?

At Every Neighborhood Partner in Fresno, we firmly believe our education system can’t do it alone. If we want to see these statistics changed, it takes all of us- parents, professionals, businesses, churches, community members, educators, and college students working together to support our youngest generation. Stories like this one give me hope that when a community comes together, children thrive.

the impact of the church

Currently, we are playing our role by partnering churches with elementary schools and training these church volunteers to work with kids on early literacy skills. What I love most about my job is seeing individuals get engaged, invested, and passionate about their neighborhood school and neighbors. I love hearing stories of volunteers who gather for coffee after mentoring to debrief and share ideas on how to help their lowest readers succeed. Or mentors who bring in special prizes and treats to encourage their kids. Or of mentors who build a strong relationship with the teacher, end up coming other days/times to assist, and are even asked to pray with them. Christ’s love shines brightly through our church volunteers- they are often unapplauded, but their consistency, love, and attitude speaks volumes.

Through our church partnerships, we were honored to impact over 400 students’ literacy skills last year, but with over 70,000 students in Fresno Unified, there’s still a lot more to be done. We encourage you to play your role in the lives of the children God has placed around you- from giving an encouraging word or high-five, to building/donating towards a Little Library, to reading with your grand kids, every little bit helps. Pray for and love on the kids in your life and ask that God continue to deepen and expand your heart and your reach.

Training Literacy Mentors below:

“Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1st John 3:18


  1. Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation
  2. The Silent Epidemic Perspectives of High School Dropouts
  3. Learning to Read, Reading to Learn
  4. Data on Students Meeting or Exceeding Grade-Level Standard in English Language Arts

About the Author

Jenessa Hefler is the Literacy Mentor Director at Every Neighborhood Partner in Fresno, CA.


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