When you talk to your legislator—or even your friends and neighbors—about summer reading programs, you might hear these common questions. Here’s how to answer them effectively.

Q: Why do we need summer reading programs? Shouldn’t parents be working with their children instead?
A:
This isn’t a realistic solution in our community. Many children, especially those in low-income households, rely on summer and outside-of-school programs to get the education they need to succeed in school and life.

Many low-income parents are working extra hours or more than one job. Unfortunately, they don’t have the extra time to read aloud to their kids or do intensive reading activities. Low-income children also have access to fewer resources for reading improvement. We already have teachers qualified to help these children; they just need funding.

Q: What should I cut to fund your program?

A: We are counting on your leadership in the Iowa legislature to work out the budget math. It’s in the state’s best interest for the legislature to work out budget priorities since they have the full picture of the state’s needs. Summer learning is crucial for children who are struggling to read, and the skills they gain in these funded programs will benefit central Iowa socially and economically for years to come.

Q: We need to have more accountability! If programs aren’t performing, they shouldn’t be funded as one of the summer reading programs.

A: We agree that accountability is extremely important. We need to measure the right things and use that information in the right way. That’s why United Way of Central Iowa tracks program outcomes to ensure that they are in line with our education strategies regarding school readiness and early grade success.

However, we can’t wait to fund programs until after a full evaluation. That’s putting the cart before the horse. We need to fund summer reading programs immediately so that the children who need support the most aren’t penalized. Program accountability is the next step.

Q: Why does government need to get involved in more education funding? Can’t private organizations or schools do this on their own?

A: The community is already invested and involved in this issue, but the need is too great for us to do this alone. United Way of Central Iowa has invested in summer learning programs for many years. In 2015, Summer in the City served roughly 70 central Iowa third-graders with the help of over 20 community partner organizations. While Summer in the City is certainly successful, there are still so many children who need programming. Community organizations do not have the resources to serve thousands of children on their own.

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Children from
low-income households hear
30 million
fewer words by
age 3 and are
4x
more likely to be absent from
school than their
middle-class peers.