TAMPA, Fla. — In 2022, just 32 percent of fourth graders were reading at or above the national proficiency level, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress.

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The low success rate has spurred Shumaker Law Firm, which has offices in Tampa and Sarasota, to take action by creating a program aimed at increasing literacy rates.

Every day, 9-year-old Miranda enters a classroom, not at her elementary school but at the Boys & Girls Club, where they're focused on reading.

"I like to read a lot of non-fiction books," she said. She's reading books at or above her grade level, and while she loves non-fiction, her favorite books are fantasies.

"I'm a really big fan of Harry Potter, so is our teacher actually. We read Harry Potter when we come back from lunch, and her whole room is designed like Harry Potter," she said.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress says there has been a three-point drop in the average reading score for fourth graders from 2019 to 2022.

That data illustrates the importance of a program Shumaker Law Firm just introduced.

Its Make a Difference through Literacy Initiative aims to help 100,000 people by their 100th year of operation, which is 2025. The firm has already donated $5,000 to local Boys & Girls Clubs to pay for literacy programs.

Miranda has been coming to the Boys & Girls Club for the last three years and credits her good reading skills to resources like this.

"I think my reading has gotten a lot better from being here, because in school, we don't have a lot of time to read," she said. "But here, I have as much time as I want."

The mission is for more kids to improve their reading and writing skills. All 500 employees at Shumaker Law Firm will volunteer their time to read to children.

"It's a great way to give back to the communities where we are and to focus on helping programs that are aimed to improve literacy," said Meghan Serrano, who has been an attorney for 18 years and has a passion for helping kids.

The law firm's Sarasota location is the first to begin the initiative to help kids like Miranda reach their full potential.

"I've never read this book actually," Miranda said as she eagerly flipped through the pages to keep her reading skills on track.

The Shumaker Law Firm plans to expand its literacy initiative throughout the Bay area. It also has attorneys read to senior citizens at nursing homes and to the blind, providing opportunities for more people to enjoy books.