Jones County Every Child Reads finalizes plan to support youth

The National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has recognized Jones County’s Every Child Reads program as an official member, and in response, community members have created a new plan to comprehensively address the needs of local children. 

“To be a part of the bigger Grade-Level Reading Campaign and community is an honor,” says Every Child Reads coordinator Heather Weers. “We will now be connected to more communities and resources with our same focus: to have students reading proficiently by third grade.”

The new action plan, developed by Weers and an executive committee with support from the Jones County Community Foundation, lays out goals and recommendations to guide a coordinated effort to support Jones County youth.”

“The purpose of this initiative is to provide an opportunity for our community to come together to ensure that every child is successful in school and in life,” says Weers. “We enthusiastically invite community members, parents, business, and local organizations to get involved.”

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a national collaboration of foundations, nonprofits, states, and communities focused on the No. 1 predictor of school success and high school graduation: reading proficiency by the end of third grade. More than 360 communities throughout the United States have committed to the Grade-Level Reading effort to meet the needs of our youngest children. 

Reading proficiently by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn. Studies show that students who fall behind in reading proficiency at the end of third grade are less likely to graduate from high school, and research shows that children from low-income households are disproportionately affected. 

“Reaching this milestone is important for both our students’ and our community’s future,” Weers says. Data provided by Anamosa, Midland and Monticello school districts show third-grade reading proficiency levels at 68.9%, 60.6% and 81%, respectively.

Every Child Reads follows the Campaign framework to boost academic achievement by addressing the three focus areas of school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning. Efforts also uplift the role of family, health, and the joy of reading.

A variety of Jones County leaders and groups were engaged to identify those opportunities: school and library staff, Jones County Moms Group, Jones County Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, and Jones County Community Connections. Their feedback, paired with local research and guidance from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, led the Jones County Every Child Reads program to recommend the following community actions: 

  • Ensure school readiness through access to books and early literacy, as well as support of social emotional development.
  • Support school attendance by reducing barriers to attendance and building intentional partnerships between school, families and the community.
  • Prevent summer learning loss with enrichment programs and ensure safety and health by providing access to healthy meals when school is not in session.

“The core of our effort has been identifying opportunities for the community to support our youngest learners,” Weers explains. “Partnerships among schools, families, organizations, businesses and individuals are critical to a community-based movement.”