AUGUSTA – A state task force says that help from the private sector could help address Maine’s low third-grade literacy rates.

The task force’s recent report supports a pilot program addressing early childhood program supported by loans from private investors or performance-based contracts.

The idea is to expand early childhood and pre-kindergarten education programs that can help students improve literacy rates and prepare for kindergarten.

About 36 percent of Maine fourth-graders are proficient in reading, according to test scores, compared with 43 percent in New England and 35 percent nationally.

The Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab is offering to help governments figure out what kind of public-private partnership would work best.

The task force wants legislators to apply for the Harvard program.