Central Iowa students involved with Read to Succeed have shown significant improvements, United Way of Central Iowa announced at a press conference today at Willard Elementary School. United Way also renewed its community-wide call to action by asking parents, caregivers, and volunteers to Read Together with a child for 15 minutes every day, lifting up a research-based strategy.

“Positive results from the Read to Succeed initiative are showing that the collaboration among our local schools, parents, volunteers, and businesses is making a huge impact for our students,” said Thomas Ahart, Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. “Des Moines Public Schools has seen a two percent increase in the number of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade. This success means that we are increasing the chances that these students will graduate from high school and achieve long-term success in our community.”

Read to Succeed was launched in May 2016 as United Way of Central Iowa’s first-ever community-wide call to action to give central Iowa students the skills they need to read proficiently by the end of third grade, the number one predictor of high school graduation. Read to Succeed’s achievements in the past year include:

  • 98.2 percent of students in the Power Read program demonstrated improvements in reading. The program, which pairs reading mentors with elementary students to read for 30 minutes each week, engaged 250 new volunteers, half of United Way’s goal of engaging 500 new volunteers by 2020. 
  • In the Book Buddy program, preschool participants saw a 66 percent increase in print literacy skills in the past school year. More than 200 volunteer were engaged as reading mentors. 
  • In March 2017, Des Moines was named a Pacesetter and nominated for the All American City Award by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This honors the community’s work in eliminating barriers faced by children from low-income families on the path to becoming proficient readers. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading noted that kindergarten students who met the benchmarks of school readiness increased to 49.5 percent from 28.6 percent in 2015.
  • More than 40,000 books and 10,000 literacy kits went to children and child care centers to build their literacy skills.

“These impressive results, especially the improved skills of the children who read with mentors, show that our efforts to engage the whole community in Read to Succeed are working,” said Elisabeth Buck, Chief Community Impact Officer at United Way of Central Iowa. “Today is about celebrating our achievements and renewing our commitment toward our Goals for 2020 by asking parents and caregivers to Read Together as a family every day.”

The Read Together campaign brings a new strategy to the Read to Succeed initiative, focusing on research that shows that the engagement of a caring adult matters. The campaign will kick off May 1 with public messages on reading together for 15 minutes every day. The website, www.read2succeed.org, offers tips and tools to encourage reading between adults and kids.

As part of the event, the local office of KPMG donated more than 4,000 books to encourage every Willard Elementary student to spend time reading at home, and KPMG employees and other volunteers read with first-grade students after the event. The donation is from KPMG’s Family for Literacy program (KFFL), which gets new books into the hands of children who need them across the country.

“Reading is a building block to a better education, and education leads to opportunity,” said Sean Vicente, managing partner at KPMG. “The commitment to help our kids succeed falls not just on our teachers, schools, and nonprofits, but on all of us. KPMG is proud to partner with United Way to help all kids learn to read so that they can achieve their dreams.”

Read to Succeed partners also renewed a call for volunteers to participate in the Power Read program, with a special eight-week summer session starting in June to help students prevent learning loss during the summer months. To sign up, community members can visit www.unitedwaydm.org/power-read.

About Read to Succeed
Read to Succeed is United Way of Central Iowa’s first-ever community-wide call to action launched in 2016. With a focus on reading-based strategies, its goal is for 90 percent of central Iowa students to read proficiently by 2020. It also aims to engage 500 volunteer reading mentors to promote reading skills with elementary school students. Currently, about one-fourth of third grade students are not reading proficiently in central Iowa. The ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is the number one predictor of whether a child will graduate from high school. Learn more at www.read2succeed.org.

About United Way of Central Iowa
United Way of Central Iowa fights for the health, education, and financial stability of all central Iowans. For over 100 years United Way of Central Iowa has brought together nonprofits, businesses, government, community leaders, volunteers, and more to identify and tackle central Iowa’s toughest challenges. Focusing on issues such as early grade reading, poverty, mental and social health, high school graduation, and career training, United Way of Central Iowa inspires central Iowans to give, advocate, and volunteer to improve lives and empower all in our community. For more information about United Way of Central Iowa, visit www.unitedwaydm.org.

KPMG is one of the world’s leading professional services firms, providing innovative business solutions and audit, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s largest and most prestigious organizations. KPMG is the fastest-growing Big Four professional services firm in the United States and is widely recognized for being a great place to work and build a career. Our people share a sense of purpose in the work we do, and a strong commitment to community service, inclusion and diversity, and eradicating childhood illiteracy. Learn more at www.kpmg.com.

Media Contact:
Sarah Welch
515-246-6520 (o)
515-314-7966 (c)

TAGS: Education

About The Author: Sarah Welch

Sarah Welch is a communications contractor for the Thriving Workforce initiative and is the former Strategic Communications Officer at United Way of Central Iowa.