MINNEAPOLIS, Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Target® today announced its plans to donate more than $500 million by the end of 2015 to support education, doubling its support to-date, for a total of more than $1 billion. The financial commitment is part of Target's new reading initiative, Target Read With Me(SM), aimed at helping more U.S. children read proficiently by the end of third grade. As part of the initiative, Target also announced a reading pledge, a donation of up to 2 million books to kids in need, and plans for an innovative reading center that will reach communities across the country through a physical and virtual presence.
According to the most recent available data, one in four kids in the U.S. did not graduate from high school. The odds were even worse for African-American and Hispanic students, nearly 40 percent of whom did not receive a diploma.(1) "When more than a million students a year fail to graduate with their class, it's more than a problem, it's a catastrophe," said Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) and founding chair of America's Promise Alliance. "Our economic and national security are at risk when we fail to educate the leaders and the workforce of the future. No single organization or entity can solve this issue on its own. We have a responsibility to unite across sectors to address this crisis because we cannot afford to let our kids fail."
Research proves that reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a significant milestone on the path to graduation.(2) This is when children make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
By launching the Target Read With Me initiative and increasing its focus on helping more U.S. children read proficiently by the end of third grade, Target hopes to bring greater awareness to the education crisis in America, reinforce the important role reading plays in shaping a child's future, and provide access to the tools and resources needed to help kids beat these odds and stay on the path to graduation.
"Target's ties to education run deep, but we are compelled to do more to address the education crisis in the U.S. and put more kids on the path to graduation so they are ready for college, a career and life. The time to act is now, and it starts by reading with a child," said Laysha Ward, president of community relations, Target. "Our reading pledge is the first of many steps Target will take to ensure our kids are globally competitive. We need every parent and caring adult to join us in creating a movement that will chart a new course in education and help our children succeed."
Target will invite the public to get involved in its reading initiative through a variety of channels, including:
According to experts, children should be read to or with for at least 30 minutes a day.(3) Target will encourage parents, caring adults and its more than 350,000 team members to take action by visiting Target.com/reading, where they can pledge to commit to a regular reading schedule with a child. The pledge also can be accessed via mobile Web browsing or by texting "READ" to TARGET (827438).(4) Target.com/reading will host a variety of tools, tips and expert resources. It will emphasize the importance of committing to a regular reading schedule with a child, whether that is the expert-recommended schedule or localized volunteer opportunities, so all pledge participants can get involved and play a role in addressing the education crisis.
Studies show that the most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to printed materials.(5) To address this need, Target will donate up to 2 million age-appropriate books to kids in need nationwide through its partnership with First Book®, a national non-profit organization. Target will donate 1 million books to mark the beginning of its Target Read With Me initiative and up to an additional 1 million books once 1 million reading pledges have been received.
Physical and Virtual Reading Centers
Underscoring its commitment to putting more U.S. kids on the path to graduation, Target intends to launch a reading center of excellence that will have a physical and virtual presence. The physical center will be located in Target's headquarters market of Minneapolis-St. Paul, where nearly half of third-grade students do not read at a proficient level.(6) The center will serve to support and share innovative solutions and best practices in reading. The virtual aspect of Target's reading center will ensure kids, parents and caring adults have access to interactive tools and reading resources, regardless of their location.
Target is convening varied perspectives to shape its center of excellence for reading, such as Geoffrey Canada, president and chief executive officer for Harlem Children's Zone, Inc.; innovation and design firm IDEO; National Education Association (NEA); and National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). More information about the specific location of the physical reading center will be available in 2011.
Minneapolis-based Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) serves guests at 1,743 stores in 49 states nationwide and at Target.com. Target is committed to providing a fun and convenient shopping experience with access to unique and highly differentiated products at affordable prices. Since 1946, the corporation has given 5 percent of its income through community grants and programs, like Take Charge of Education. Today, that giving equals more than $3 million a week. For more information about Target's commitment to corporate responsibility, visit Target.com/hereforgood.
About America's Promise Alliance
America's Promise Alliance is the nation's largest partnership organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth by raising awareness, supporting communities, and engaging in nonpartisan advocacy. Through our Grad Nation campaign, we harness the collective power of our partner network to mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce. Building on the legacy of our Founding Chairman General Colin Powell, the Alliance believes the success of our young people is grounded in the Five Promises -- caring adults; safe places; a healthy start; an effective education; and opportunities to help others. For more information about America's Promise Alliance, visit www.americaspromise.org.
(1) Citation: Stillwell, R. (2010). Public School Graduates and Dropouts From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2007–08 (NCES 2010-341). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC. Retrieved Sept. 1, 2010 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2010341.
(2) Citation: Annie E. Casey Foundation, "EARLY WARNING! Why Reading By The End of Third Grade Matters," page 9 – 2010.
(3) Citation: U.S. Department of Education, America Reads Challenge. (1999) "Start Early, Finish Strong: How to Help Every Child Become a Reader." Washington, D.C.
(4) Message and data rates may apply.
(5) Citation: Newman, Sanford, et all. "Americans Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy"; Fight Crime; Invest in Kids, 2000.
(6) Citation: 2010 State of Minnesota MCA-II 3rd grade reading proficiency scores. Issued July 1, 2010.