As Book Buddy volunteers met their preschool reading partners over the past few weeks—the kids they will be working with throughout the school year—they were greeted with smiles and hugs.
They were also met with some gratifying new data that makes the hard work they are about to put in over the next six months all the more meaningful.
United Way of Central Iowa assesses the progress of Book Buddy students over the course of the year as they read twice weekly with volunteers.
During the 2016-17 school year, 74% of Book Buddy students showed growth on the literacy assessment.
Even more impressive, 60 percent of the kids showed mastery of or demonstrated strong reading and writing skills by the end of the year, despite the fact that kids in the Book Buddy centers start the school year with lower scores than kids at centers that don't have the Book Buddy program.
The most dramatic data point, however, demonstrates that this improvement is not just a blip for these kids, but a long-term sustained impact on their lives.
Three years later, in first grade, the Book Buddy students scored 10% higher than their Des Moines Public School peers who didn't participate in Book Buddy on the FAST assessment for reading readiness.
Book Buddy volunteers, who spend 40 minutes a week reading with 4-year-olds and preparing them for kindergarten, can feel confident they are making an impact because the data backs it up.
Because of the volunteers' generosity, the children in the Book Buddy program are much more likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade. That makes them four times more likely to graduate from high school.
A high school graduate earns $700,000 more than a dropout during their lifetime and contributes to the overall economic health and development of central Iowa.
The kids don't know these numbers as they greet their Book Buddies will cheers and hugs each week. But they are grateful all the same.
Book Buddy is part of United Way of Central Iowa's READ to SUCCEED initiative to increase third-grade reading proficiency in central Iowa. Click below to learn more about how to get involved as a volunteer, parent or caregiver, or community member.