(Memphis) Third grade can be the turning point of a child's learning.
"In the third-grade level you are ready to analyze the text, looking at what you are reading, why are you reading it and how it helps you in other subjects," said third-grade teacher Joy Stevens.
Stevens is among the top recruited teachers working with Teach Plus to find innovative ways to reach students.
We showed her the latest stats from Shelby County Schools showing that 60 percent of third-graders are below or just at the basic reading level.
"We know our children they need help with their reading development or literacy," said Stevens.
The Shelby County School Board says the numbers show lower reading rates correspond with children who are economically disadvantaged.
The school system plans to turn the numbers around through reading centers, parent training, and teacher courses.
Some things are already in place.
"At our school, we have after-school tutoring to help them get those skills they have missed out on," said Stevens.
Parents are a big piece of the puzzle.
For instance, Amy Seddens works with her first grade son Joshua.
"We read every night. We come to the library regularly. There are some websites we get on, reading websites," said Seddens. "Parents need to put more effort into it. Make sure their kids do their homework. Read to them. Sound the words out."
Many say pre-k can also make a difference.
"It puts them a step ahead," said Seddens.
"When they have those skills early, when they go into kindergarten, they are ready and they will become successful," said Stevens.
Funding to expand pre-k was voted down in Memphis this month.
Supporters are now looking for other ways to get pre-k to thousands of kids who now don't have it.
Stevens says the good news is these shocking reading numbers can be improved and students can catch up, but it will take spending time and helping them with skills they lack.