From kindergarten through the end of third grade, students learn to read. After that, they must be able to read to learn.


This one factor, the ability to read proficiently at the end of third grade, has long-term implications for individuals and for our community. Students who can’t read at grade level at the end of third grade are 4x more likely to drop out before they graduate. That’s why United Way of Central Iowa launched READ to SUCCEED, a ground-breaking, community-wide awareness and action campaign to help our kids get the skills they need to succeed as students and beyond. 


Read Together for 15 minutes every day—whether you are a parent, caregiver, neighbor, or volunteer—whether you are in the grocery store, the waiting room, on your couch, or in a classroom. These can be the most important minutes of a child’s day. Scroll down for reading tips and resources for parents and caregivers.

You can help central Iowa students READ to SUCCEED:

Choose a category below to find ideas and resources you can use to help students in central Iowa read proficiently.


Parents &

Find great tools and ideas to help kids with their reading, including simple everyday ideas and fun activities you can do together.


Volunteers & Advocates

Find ways you and your friends and colleagues can help kids READ to SUCCEED in central Iowa.



Businesses & Organizations

Find ways to get your organization involved in helping central Iowa kids READ to SUCCEED!


The Programs

As part of READ to SUCCEED, the following programs and initiatives are designed to provide the tools, resources and opportunities for students to enhance their reading, and for volunteers to help.


Volunteers read to preschool age children each week during the school year. 

Learn More About BOOK BUDDY


Volunteers do reading activities with K-5 students each week of the school year.

Learn More About POWER READ


Volunteers build kits that help students engage with books and learn to read.

Learn More About LITERACY KITS



Helpful tips, activities and events by text based on child's age and location.

Learn More About BRIGHT BY TEXT


Groups organize book drives to collect new and gently used children's books. 

Learn More About STUFF THE BUS


Vision screenings and free eyeglasses for central Iowa students in need. 

Learn More About VISION TO LEARN

READ to SUCCEED: Report to the Community

Read to Succeed was launched in 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. Achievements 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. 
  • 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. 
  • Des Moines received the prestigious All-America City Award for its civic engagement to help more young children from low-income families achieve grade-level reading proficiency and early school success. 

  • More than 40,000 books and 10,000 literacy kits went to children and child care centers to build their literacy skills.
Read to Succeed

Mentor Stories

Volunteers who got involved in the Power Read literacy and mentoring program share the stories of their experience.

An Honor to ReadScott and Honor posed.jpg

5-year-old Honor was in tears on his first day of Power Read. His transformation since then has been remarkable.


Booking Lunch
Mike and Lynn.jpg

When Mike and Lynn Sucik arrive at South Union Elementary on Mondays, they have learned to expect a bit of a lunchtime mess.


Advisory Committee

The following individuals have volunteered to help guide the efforts of READ to SUCCEED.

  • Cathy Beck-Cross
    Grand View
  • Barb Bremner
    Polk County ECI
  • Teree Caldwell-Johnson
    Oakridge Neighborhood Services
  • Deb Chiodo
    Principal (Retired)
  • Marcy Cordaro
    Des Moines Public Schools/Johnston School Board
  • Angie Dethlefs-Trettin
    Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
  • Melissa Gradischnig
    Parent Outreach
  • Greg Harris
  • Cheryl Hayes
    Amos/Bethel AME
  • Debbie Hubbell
    Community Volunteer
  • Mandi McReynolds
  • Nancy Mwirotsi
    Community Volunteer
  • Cameron Nicholson
    Grubb YMCA
  • Michelle Seibert
    State Public Policy Group
  • Judy Russell
    Drake Head Start
  • Sandy Schmitz
    Iowa Reading Rsearch Center
  • Shane Schulte
    Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
  • Steph Shepard
    Altoona Kids Club
  • Nell Slusark
    AEA (retired)
  • Kanisha Tillman
  • Sean Vicente
  • Allyson Vukovich
    Des Moines Public Schools
  • Sue Woody
    Des Moines Public Library

United Way Staff

  • Kate Bennett
    Community Impact Officer - Education
  • Sarah Underwood
    Volunteer Engagement Manager
  • Stacey Walter
    Child Care Consultant



Central Iowa's Libraries

Altoona 700 8th St. SW Altoona 515-967-3881
Bondurant 104 2nd St NE Bondurant 515-967-4790
Clive 1900 NW 114th St. Clive 515-453-2221
Des Moines Central 1000 Grand Ave. Des Moines 515-283-4152
Des Moines East Side 2559 Hubbel Ave. Des Moines 515-283-4152
Des Moines Forest Ave. 1326 Forest Ave. Des Moines 515-283-4152
Des Moines Franklin Ave. 5000 Franklin Ave. Des Moines 515-283-4152
Des Moines North Side 3516 5th Ave. Des Moines 515-283-4152
Des Moines South Side 1111 SW Porter Ave. Des Moines 515-283-4152
Grimes 200 N. James St. Grimes 515-986-3551
Johnston 6700 Merle Hay Rd. Johnston 515-278-5233
Ankeny(Kirkendall) 1210 NW Prairie Rdg Dr. Ankeny 515-965-6460
Mitchellville 205 Center Ave. N. Mitchellville 515-967-3339
Pleasant Hill 5151 Maple Dr. Pleasant Hill 515-266-7815
Polk City 1500 W. Broadway St. Polk City 515-984-6119
Runnells 6575 SE 116th St. Runnells 515-966-2068
Urbandale 3520 86th St. Urbandale 515-278-3945
West Des Moines 4000 Mills Civic Pkwy West Des Moines 515-222-3400
Adel 303 S. 10th St. Adel 515-993-3512
De Soto 405 Walnut St. De Soto 515-834-2690
Dexter 724 Marshall St. Dexter 515-789-4490
Granger 2216 Broadway St Granger 515-999-2088
Linden 131 S. Main St. Linden 641-744-2124
Minburn 315 Baker St. Minburn 515-677-2712
Perry 1101 Willis Ave. Perry 515-465-3569
Redfield 1112 Thomas St. Redfield 515-833-2200
Dallas Center (Roy R. Estle) 1308 Walnut St Dallas Center 515-992-3185
Van Meter 505 Grant St. Van Meter 515-996-2435
Waukee 950 Warrior Ln Waukee 515-978-7944
Woodward 118 S. Main St. Woodward 515-438-2636
Carlisle 135 School St. Carlisle 515-989-0909
Indianola 207 N. B St. Indianola 515-961-9418
Lacona 107 E. Main St. Lacona 641-534-4400
Milo 123 Main St. Milo 641-942-6557
New Virginia 501 Border St. New Virginia 641-449-3614
Norwalk 1051 North Ave. Norwalk 515-981-0217



"READ to SUCCEED is a ground-breaking community-wide effort. Having the ability to read is so important to the long-term success of students in our community. Together, we will continue to make great progress in early grade reading."

Kate Bennett

Kate Bennett

Community Impact Officer, Early Childhood Success and Education Success

Email  (515) 246-6612