Read to Succeed Reports on Year One Progress

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Second and third graders from Willard Elementary School participate in an update on the Read to Succeed program.

One year ago Read to Succeed was launched, a partnership between public schools and the United Way of Central Iowa with the objective of raising reading proficiency among 3rd graders from 75% to 90% by 2020.

Thursday morning the initiative got its first report card in an event hosted at Willard Elementary School.

When Read to Succeed was established the call went out for 500 community volunteers who would pledge to spend half an hour each week reading with a child one on one. United Way’s Chief Community Impact Officer Elisabeth Buck said this morning the campaign is halfway to that goal and the impact those 250 mentors are having is substantial.

“98.2% of students who met weekly with a community volunteer demonstrated improvement in their reading test scores,” she said in renewing the call for help.

“Tell me if you can think of a better way to spend 30 minutes than reading with one of these great kids,” said DMPS Superintendent Dr. Tom Ahart, gesturing to the fidgety, smiley backdrop behind the podium in the school cafeteria made up of Willard 2nd and 3rd graders clad in colorful RTS t-shirts. He added that 3rd grade reading proficiency is the leading predictor of high school graduation and said that DMPS saw a two percent boost in that metric in the first year of the Read to Succeed initiative.

“Positive results from the Read to Succeed initiative are showing that the collaboration among our local schools, parents, volunteers, and businesses is making a huge impact for our students,” noted Ahart. “Des Moines Public Schools has seen a two percent increase in the number of students reading proficiently by the end of third grade. This success means that we are increasing the chances that these students will graduate from high school and achieve long-term success in our community.”

More students lined the stairwell along one wall throughout the event, a vivid portrayal of the climb that’s underway.

KPMG is a corporate community sponsor of the program and managing partner Sean Vicente was on hand Thursday to renew its investment. Besides bringing KPMG troops along to read with Willard kids after the formal ceremonies, Vicente announced that every Willard student will go home for the summer with a set of books donated through KPMG’s Family for Literacy effort.

“That’s a total of more than 4,000 books,” Vicente said. “We want to help kids avoid the ‘summer slide’ in learning by providing them with a summer library.”

Buck said that Read to Succeed is branching out beyond recruitment of more weekly volunteers in the schools. She unveiled a billboard mockup for Read Together, a campaign advocating adult commitments to read at least 15 minutes daily with children in the early grades.

“Today is about celebrating our achievements and renewing our commitment toward our goals for 2020 by asking parents and caregivers to Read Together as a family every day,” she said.

It was also about lunch, which was starting to smell rather tasty by the time the speeches were over, and a Dr. Seuss dessert, catered by the volunteers from KPMG.

This is National Volunteer Week in case you were not aware, and it’s not over. Click here to learn about ways you can get in the spirit with Read to Succeed.


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