Family literacy nights have become a key strategy for the Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Initially, family literacy nights were created to give area providers a platform to share resources, provide information about the importance of reading aloud, and encourage parents to create an environment at home where reading is fun and a part of the daily routine. However, over the past few years, these nights have transformed to meet the needs of families.
Last year, a summer literacy event was held in the park near a low-income housing complex with the goal to reach the families that might not have access to transportation. The event started with a typical recipe for a great family literacy event—a free family meal, books to giveaway, and volunteers reading to the kids and helping them with their plates of food. This event though, was the start of something special and needed to make a lasting change—relationship building. Instead of attending the event just to get free books and food, families were getting to know the volunteers and building a relationship with them.
Trust and relationships are core to the work that we do. Especially in a rural community, we need trust to make our strategies work. Our schools have created a trusting and safe environment for the students, but as a community, our work can only be done when we know who our neighbors are and create an environment where people feel genuinely cared about.
We continue to hold family literacy events on a regular basis where we provide a free meal, free books, and provide families with resources to reinforce literacy at home. More importantly, we are creating spaces and a community where lasting impact and change occurs, all with a focus on our future leaders.