The National Civic League named 14 communities All-America Cities today. The cities, counties and regions were recognized for their ambitious plans to ensure that more children are proficient readers by the end of third grade.

The 2012 All-America Cities are:

  •  Baltimore, Maryland
  • All-America City LogoDubuque, Iowa
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Marshalltown, Iowa
  • Pittsfield, Massachusetts
  • Quad Cities, Iowa and Illinois
  • Roanoke, Virginia
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • San Francisco, California
  • Seattle and the South King County Cities, Washington
  • Southern Pines, North Carolina
  • Springfield, Massachusetts
  • Tahoe/Truckee, California

To read more about what these communities are doing. Link here.

The award is given to each year to recognize outstanding examples of community problem solving, civic engagement and collaboration between the public, profit and nonprofit sectors. This year the award had a special focus: applicants were asked to develop comprehensive plans to bridge the reading gap between at-risk students and other learners. The awardees named today were among 124 communities that met in Denver this weekend to launch a network dedicated to improving early literacy and bridging the performance gap among young readers nationwide.

The conference/awards celebration emerged from a partnership between the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the National Civic League, the National League of Cities, U.S. Conference of Mayors and United Way Worldwide. "This partnership has been an amazing experience for our All-America City Awards," said Gloria Rubio-Cortes, president of the National Civic League. "We were overwhelmed by the quality, passion and thoughtfulness of all the action plans submitted by over one hundred cities, towns and regions.  There is a real and deep commitment to ensuring that our children are prepared to succeed." 

The 124 communities who are already part of the campaign are adopting a collective impact strategy, engaging their full community around the goal of supporting low-income children from birth through third grade. Their plans involve schools but acknowledge that they alone cannot address the myriad problems that keep children from learning to read. The strategies include ensuring that children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed, attend school regularly and keep learning through the summer months.

"We are leaving the Mile-High City on a high of our own, inspired by the people who are moving mountains in their communities to serve children," said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the Campaign and a senior vice president at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.  "We look forward to working with all of the communities in the Network as well as more across the country to move the needle on grade-level reading."

"It's been a wonderful opportunity to work with the other partners to really make a difference," said Stacey Stewart, Executive Vice President of United Way Worldwide. "Our greatest asset is the ability to mobilize both individuals and institutions around an issue that communities think are important . This effort to get more kids reading at grade level by the end of third grade has emerged as a critical priority in many communities."

"The National League of Cities congratulates the winners of the 2012 All-America City Awards for their outstanding community plans," said Donald J. Borut, NLC's executive director.  "These communities will be among the leaders as Americans from all walks of life rally around the goal of ensuring that every child reads proficiently by the end of third grade."

Each of the recognized communities submitted a "Community Solutions Action Plan" that included a broad cross-section of local partners, including schools, foundations, community service organizations, businesses and faith groups detailing how they would address school readiness, attendance and summer learning.  More than 30 finalist communities were selected through a peer review process from a field of more than 100 entries from across the country.

At the award celebration Monday afternoon, NCL President Gloria Rubio-Cortes announced that next year's All-America City Award will include a focus on how communities are mobilizing to address the needs of returning veterans and military families.

Friday marked the launch of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, a national movement of local leaders, nonprofits and foundations putting a stake in the ground on third-grade reading. That milestone marks the point when children shift from learning to read and begin reading to learn. Students who haven't mastered reading by then are more likely to get stuck in a cycle of academic failure, drop out of school, and struggle throughout their lives.

All-America City Award sponsors include: The Piton Foundation; Southwest Airlines-Official Airline of the All-America City Awards; Scholastic; PCL Construction; Mile High United Way; Greenberg Traurig ; US Bank; El Pomar Foundation; JP Morgan Chase; City of Lakewood; City of Aurora; Comcast; FirstBank; Rose Community Foundation; Western Union; and Denver Health.