October 25, 2016
(Council Bluffs, IA) A local early literacy initiative launched in Council Bluffs on Oct. 27th, in conjunction with a community-wide shared reading experience held in locations throughout the city.
Raise Me to Read is a collaborative effort amongst schools, nonprofits, businesses, and families. Its goal is for the community to work together to help children in Pottawattamie County, regardless of socioeconomic background, read on grade level by the 3rd grade when students transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.
Modeled after the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Raise Me to Read will focus its efforts on children ages birth to eight, their parents and caregivers. Nancy Schulze, an executive and program director with nearly 30 years of experience will spearhead the initiative.
Raise Me to Read aims to engage and mobilize Council Bluffs and surrounding communities to remove barriers, expand opportunities and help parents succeed in their roles as a child’s first teacher. Although schools must be accountable for helping children achieve, research shows brain development efforts must begin at a much younger age.
“The minute a baby is born, they begin learning,” said Nancy Schulze, director of Raise Me to Read. “Parents don’t realize the impact they can and do have on their children even before they can talk or walk or go to school. The message we want to send is that it’s never too soon to begin talking and reading to your child. Play time, drive time, bath time and bedtime are all perfect opportunities for your child to develop the language skills necessary to become a proficient reader later in life.”
Currently, one in three Pottawattamie County fourth graders can’t read proficiently. Studies show that a child who can’t read proficiently is likely to fall behind. School becomes frustrating. There’s a 1 in 4 chance that child won’t graduate from high school. Dropouts make up 90 percent of Americans on welfare.
Schulze said if left unchecked, this illiteracy problem will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty in Pottawattamie County, where the poverty rate is higher than the statewide average. Students who have lived in poverty are three times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate on time than their more affluent peers.
“Today’s kids are tomorrow’s workforce,” Schulze said. “In order to change the future of Pottawattamie County children and families, it will take a group effort that can’t be focused on any one group or service provider.”
Raise Me to Read will focus specifically on school readiness, summer learning, and chronic absenteeism. It kicked off with an event called “Read for the Record” held across the country.
Located at the offices of FAMILY, Inc in Council Bluffs, Raise Me to Read is funded by the Iowa West Foundation and United Way of the Midlands. For more information visit RaiseMeToRead.com or find Raise Me to Read on Facebook and Twitter. Those interested in partnering or volunteering can contact Schulze at firstname.lastname@example.org or 712-256-9566 ext. 212.