In 2013, the Iowa Legislature passed a law to address the third-grade reading proficiency gap. According to the legislation, each district must provide an intensive summer reading program for students between third and fourth grade who exhibit “substantial deficiency” in reading. 

This law was supposed to take effect on May 1, 2017. Since funding was not allocated by the state for the summer reading programs, the 2016 Iowa Legislature and Governor Branstad have agreed to delay the implementation date until the summer of 2018. 

Since the 2016 Iowa Legislature did not fund summer learning, we anticipate a continued need for advocacy leading up to the 2017 legislative session. Contact your state legislators and remind them that:

  • Funding needs to be allocated now.

    • Regardless of the implementation date, we believe that state funding is needed for summer reading programs. Because of the retention mandate in this legislation, children who are not reading proficiently could be held back a year because they will not have the summer program option.

  • Summer reading programs save money.
    • An extra year of third grade costs an average of $6,446, but summer school averages between $500 and $2,000.
    • By funding the summer reading program as soon as possible, the state will save money on retaining third graders who exhibit “substantial deficiency” in reading. Retention is a requirement for children who cannot or do not participate in a summer reading program.
  • The need is urgent.
    • 1,488 central Iowa students (21.7 percent) are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade.
    • Without access to enriching summer activities, research shows that at-risk children lose as much as three months of reading comprehension skills over the summer months. By the end of third grade, they will have lost an entire year due to the summer slide.
    • Currently, only 18 percent of children from low-income families participate in summer learning programs. Less than one-third participate in any organized summer program or activity.

Children who are not reading proficiently in third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school compared to their peers. With funding for summer reading programs, one-fourth of Iowa children will receive the extra help they need, increasing opportunities for their personal success and the success of our state.


Download Intensive Summer Reading Program

United Way of Central Iowa supports providing quality summer learning and literacy programs for all at-risk children.