Reading proficiency by third grade is a key indicator of high school graduation and success later in life. The Dubuque community is moving forward with an effort to support children early in life to help them reach this critical milestone, which will help our children and thus our region thrive.
The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s Every Child Reads initiative, formerly known as the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, has been addressing this challenge since 2012. This year, Every Child Reads has elevated its approach to helping students by developing a new community solutions action plan that will guide its work in 2020 and beyond.
Every Child Reads is a collaborative effort among Dubuque parents, educators, nonprofits and civic leaders to ensure that all children succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. The updated action plan includes goals around school readiness, enhanced summer learning, school attendance and books in the hands of children and families. One the drivers of these goals is a new focus on engaging families and the broader community to take an active interest in helping all children thrive.
Every Child Reads is aligned with the “five promises” of Every Child/Every Promise, a nationally recognized collective impact approach to ensuring all young people succeed: caring adults, safe places, healthy start, effective education and opportunities to serve.
“Our work is informed by an understanding of how childhood adversity affects learning. As we seek to prepare all children in our community for school and life, we place an added emphasis on those who are most vulnerable, helping them and their families overcome barriers to their achievement,” said Rachel Williams, Youth Impact Coordinator at the Community Foundation.
Research indicates that if children’s basic needs are not met, they may not have the capacity to learn in a school setting. “For example, if a child lives in an unsafe home environment, they may be in survival mode when they come to school and not ready to learn,” said Williams. “Or, if they don’t have food at home and come to school hungry, they’re not thinking about a math problem.
“With that knowledge, we’re looking at all our goals through a trauma-informed lens and building awareness of the prevalence and impact of trauma. We want to be more intentional about connecting with and supporting families in their role as a child’s first teacher.”
Every Child Reads is reaching out to connect with families in the community to gain a better understanding of what children and families need and to learn how to more effectively connect families to supports. In the new year, partners will begin hosting Family Connections — an informal space for families to gather for a meal and talk about parenting. Family Connections will be an opportunity for parents to lead some of the work happening in the community.
The initiative’s community partners also are finding ways to help more families access books. Studies have shown that the mere presence of books in the home improves educational outcomes. Students from low-income families have fewer books — as few as just 1 book for every 300 children.
To address this issue, Every Child Reads recently received a grant for $11,666 from First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise focused on equal access to quality education for children in need, as part of its OMG Books Awards. Dollars from this grant will be used to purchase books that will end up in the hands of low-income families and children.
Every Child Reads welcomes public feedback on its new community solutions action plan, which can be viewed online at readdbq.org. To join the effort, contact Williams at 563.588.2700 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Look for news about a community meeting in early 2020.
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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. For more information, visit dbqfoundation.org.