Foundations, Donors Gather in D.C. to Promote Early Reading

WASHINGTON, DC – Concerned that barely one in five low-income fourth graders is reading at grade level, more than 200 foundations and donors from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. this week to discuss the best solutions to this national reading crisis.

Nancy Van Milligen, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, spoke at the Funder-to-Funder Huddle, organized by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), about Dubuque’s effort to engage the community and fund programs promoting early literacy.

Van Milligen described how Every Child/Every Promise has worked with local schools and nonprofits that serve youth to improve outcomes for young people in Dubuque by addressing three community solutions: Summer Learning, School Attendance and School Readiness.

The Foundation is one of more than 200 family, corporate and community foundations and United Ways supporting the local work in the GLR Campaign nationwide to ensure that more children from low-income families master reading by the end of third grade. Third grade reading is a critical milestone on the path to high school graduation and career success.

The GLR Campaign also works with national nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and more than 140 communities to promote solutions to a reading crisis in this country: 80 percent of low-income fourth graders are not reading proficiently.

At the Funder-to-Funder Huddle on June 6 and 7, Van Milligen spoke to national and corporate funders, as well as state and local foundations to share strategies for improving early reading. A panel of federal agency officials offered an overview of recent developments and emerging opportunities for funding and collaborating around grade-level reading.

Representatives from states and communities gave short talks about how they are making progress on such issues as preparing children for kindergarten, supporting and engaging parents, improving attendance in the early grades, reducing summer learning loss and promoting good health.

GLR Campaign Managing Director Ralph Smith praised the work done by local foundations. “Crucial to sustaining the campaign’s efforts is the steadfast commitment of local funders who understand the context, history, and changing dynamics of their communities and plan to stay actively engaged through the inevitable bends in the road,” he said.

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