The Purpose of READ to SUCCEED

This grassroots campaign will accelerate the community toward United Way of Central Iowa’s goal: to increase the number of third-grade students who read proficiently by 90 percent by 2020.

READ to SUCCEED focuses on school readiness, parent/caregiver engagement, summer reading loss and enriching out-of-school time programs.

The Importance of Early Grade Reading Proficiency

  • Third grade is crucial for children.

From Kindergarten to third grade, kids are learning to read. After third grade, they must read to learn. If students do not build these skills in time, they will likely have a more difficult time succeeding in school. 

  • Children who gain proficient reading skills early are set up for future success. 

Studies show that children who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.

The futures of many Iowa children will suffer if efforts are not made now. More than 20 percent of third graders in Iowa are not reading at grade level. In the 2014-2015 school year, there were 1,521 third graders who were not proficient in reading in central Iowa school districts.

  • The ability to read affects a child’s success later in life. 

Two-thirds of the ninth-grade reading achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning loss during elementary school. The ability to read proficiently by the end of third grade is the strongest predictor of high school graduation and career success.

If children who cannot read proficiently are struggling to succeed in school, they will also likely have a hard time finding living wage employment or establishing a stable career.

Legislative Issues 

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 their third and fourth grade years 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 Legislature and Governor Branstad have agreed to delay the implementation date until the summer of 2018. 

We anticipate a continued need for advocacy leading up to the 2017 legislative session in order to ensure that funding is allocated.

If the summer reading programs do not have the funding in place before the requirement takes effect, children who are not reading proficiently could be held back a year because they will not have the summer program option.

How to Get Involved

Call your state legislators and let them know you care about these issues!

To find your legislators, visit or google “Find my Iowa legislator” and click the first result.


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Reading proficiency
has an
important role
in preventing
the cycle of poverty.




of central Iowa kindergartners
started school last fall 
without the skills
needed to learn.
United Way of Central Iowa supports providing quality summer learning and
literacy programs for all
 at-risk children.