SHELBY COUNTY, TN (WMC) - 33 percent of Shelby County 3rd graders are not reading at grade level.
"When I look at some of our performance data, namely that 1/3 of our 3rd graders can read, 2/3 can't. We've got to do something different," Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said Tuesday night at a board meeting.
Wednesday, Shelby County Schools corrected the number. They say one out of every three 3rd grade students in the district reads under grade level.
Although the numbers aren't as bad as Hopson mistakenly quoted, the stats are still alarming.
"I've heard a statistic that you can predict the number of prison beds that you're going to need based on how many 3rd graders can't read," Katherine Lewis said. "So it's an alarming statistic."
To try and get all students up to grade level, SCS is working with them before they reach 3rd grade.
Team Read is one program that's seeing results. It's a tutor program that pairs volunteers with 2nd graders to help them learn how to read.
Barbara Dawson is a community engagement specialist. She says 1st and 2nd grade students are learning to read, but by the time they get to 3rd grade they need to be reading to learn.
Reading comprehension is not just a problem in Shelby County, schools all across the Mid-South are focusing on improving their students.
Wednesday St. Paul's Catholic School hosted a "Leaders are Readers" event at school.
The event was specifically designed to show kids the importance of reading, especially outside of the classroom.
"Without the ability to read, you can't communicate," Sister Mary Martha said. "You can't learn. You can't grow. So reading is just absolutely essential."
Parents obviously play a big role in helping their children read, but 6th grader Deven Black says it takes self determination.
"Keep trying. If you stumble over a word, just keep reading through it and sound it out," Black said.
Literacy is a community-wide problem. If you want to help out in Shelby County, click here to learn more about the Team Read volunteer opportunity. Or call Barbara Dawson at 901-416-5732