“In the United States, 14% of the adult population, a staggering 32 million adults, cannot read. What’s more shocking is that we haven’t moved that needle in 10 years. We know that literacy helps people escape the bonds of poverty and live longer. We know that literate people are more inclined to vote, take part in their community, and seek medical help for themselves and their families. They’re also better equipped to take advantage of knowledge jobs, which are growing at explosive rates.” — Marcie Craig Post, executive director of International Literacy Association, in a panel discussion at the Institute of International Education in New York City, April 2015.

Four years ago this fall, the Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading officially kicked off. In that time, we have learned a lot about the kids and families in our communities, the programs and services that are in place, and the gaps that exist. In four years we have reached out to families who needed to be connected, helped link organizations together to collect data and start making progress in the areas of literacy and created a greater awareness that education and literacy are connected to everything we do and does not just happen within the walls of the school. Summer food programs are now available thanks to the commitment of the leaders on the steering committee of the campaign and we continue to look at the areas where we have gaps for basic necessities, even in our own community. We are especially proud of implementing and seeing the growing success of the Kick-Off to School event that is held each August and gives out school supplies, resources, books and a free meal to families. It helped get over 200 kids ready and excited for school just this year alone. Yes, in four years, we have accomplished so much and it’s because we know the importance of Grade-Level Reading. When we focus on our youth, we know it can help lead to career-readiness, lower poverty and crime rates, and create stronger and healthier communities. As we look forward to the coming years, we have goals that are going to keep us going and driving ahead. Here are some of the priority areas that we will continue to focus on:

• Transportation — The St. Mark Youth Enrichment programs, James Kennedy Public Library, and summer food programs continue to gain momentum and grow, as does the need for transportation. We know this is a large obstacle for any rural community, and we are determined to keep this on our list of short-term goals, making programs and resources accessible for everyone.

• Literacy Accessibility — We have an amazing library in our community so our goal is to make sure families are taking advantage of the programs and resources as well as having books to keep in their home which is directly connected to increasing literacy proficiency rates.

• Continue to partner and grow relationships — We are looking at and developing innovative means to incorporate learning and reading into summer sporting activities, business policies and strengthening relationships that already exist such as with the Rural Food Pantry and Resources Unite.

It can be easy to say that Grade-Level Reading only impacts our youngest kids, but we know that the implications can impact the greater community for years to come. We are so honored to be in a community that sees this as a priority and look forward to continuing to see the needle move for our families and for all of us.

Please feel free to reach out to Jessica Pape, Dyersville Community Coordinator for Grade-Level Reading at jpape1112@gmail.com if you would like to get more involved or have questions. We are excited to see the collective impact that can be made when we all work together towards the same goal of grade-level proficiency in literacy.