READ to SUCCEED is an integrated initiative to improve early childhood literacy in central Iowa. This important work has long-reaching implications in our community's ability to thrive. 

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



United Way of Central Iowa and READ to SUCCEED promote literacy and early childhood development to ensure children enter school ready to succeed, and have the skills they need beyond third grade to thrive as students.


One of the most important things anyone can do to help is read with a child. Read together for 20 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. See below for ways to get involved. 


READ to SUCCEED is part of United Way of Central Iowa's UNITED to THRIVE strategic focus on Education Success, where central Iowa youth are academically successful and have a plan for their future.


Campaign for Grade Level Reading.jpg

United Way of Central Iowa's READ to SUCCEED program has been recognized as a Pacesetter by The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading each year since 2012.


Parents &

Play every day. Research confirms that children learn better when adults talk, sing, and read with them daily. Support early learning though positive, engaging, fun interactions with the children in your life. 


  • Find the author and illustrator's names and read them aloud
  • Wonder about the book title
  • Look at pictures and talk about what you see
  • Predict what this book will be about based on the title and pictures
  • Read together at least 20 minutes every day
  • Take moments to find and learn new words
  • Talk about the book: favorite characters, the best part, or if anything is like real life
  • Celebrate learning!


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!

Connect with your organization's United Way of Central Iowa Corporate Engagement Manager or contact Kristin Young, Corporate Engagement Officer, to learn more. 


Please consider donating to United Way of Central Iowa to support this important work. If you want your investment to directly impact this work, join one of our leadership affinity groups. Women United donors support United Way of Central Iowa's efforts in Early Childhood Success and Education Leadership Initiative (ELI) supports Education Success, primarily for  middle and high school students.  



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

Book Buddy logo - UWCI - color

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

Learn More About BOOK BUDDY


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

Learn More About BRIGHT BY TEXT


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

Learn More About LITERACY KITS


Power Read Logo - UWCI - Color

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

Learn More About POWER READ


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

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 was launched in 2016 during United Way of Central Iowa’s 100th year celebration as the organization'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. During the first year of the program, achievements included:

  • 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 volunteers 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.

Since that time, READ to SUCCEED has grown and continues to be one of the key focus areas of United Way's UNITED to THRIVE strategic imperative. The work in this initiative primarily impacts two of the five elements of a thriving community; Early Childhood Success and Education Success.

Read to Succeed


Two 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.




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