Creating a Culture of Summer Learning in Northeast Iowa

For hundreds of kids across Dubuque and Jackson Counties, this summer was not only a time to explore new things and have fun, but it was also a time to keep learning all summer long. Research shows that summer learning loss is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth and one of the strongest contributors to high school dropout rates. With this in mind, the Campaigns for Grade-Level Reading in Dubuque, Dyersville and Jackson County have all put a strong focus on working with partners to create a robust summer learning environment in each community.


Hundreds of students in Dubuque benefit from the collaboration of partners in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to create strong summer learning opportunities. Programs like Summer Academy, facilitated by the school district, St. Mark’s Heroes Summer Academy, and Cool School at the YMCA/YWCA all include high-quality literacy instruction and enrichment opportunities. These programs have proven to make an impact in reading proficiency and benefit from numerous community partners who provide enrichment opportunities.

In addition to these programs, many other community partners offer learning opportunities throughout the summer. The City of Dubuque Leisure Services playground program has made changes in recent years to include a literacy component, recognizing the importance of having learning opportunities for their participants. The Carnegie-Stout Public Library also offers multiple programs throughout the summer to encourage kids to keep reading and learning, and AmeriCorps Partners in Learning offers key support to many of these already mentioned.

“There are so many partners working together to create a rich summer learning environment in Dubuque,” said Julee Albers, director of youth impact at CFGD. “This collaboration makes it possible for so many kids to have access to quality programs, but we know there are still kids that we are missing. Partners in the Campaign are always looking for ways we can continue to improve and increase our impact.”

Jackson County

For 169 students in Jackson County, summer has turned into quite an adventure! Summer Adventure, a county-wide summer learning program, recently concluded its second year of programming. Summer Adventure offers much more than a traditional summer school model—providing transportation, breakfast, morning literacy instruction, lunch, afternoon enrichment activities, field trips, afternoon snack and transportation home.

In 2015, administrators from four school districts and two parochial schools who are partners in the Jackson County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading were determined to improve their summer learning opportunities – especially for students struggling to read. The result of their collaboration was a pilot program of Summer Adventure in 2016, where data showed that 76% of students maintained or improved their reading proficiency.

When asked, students said their favorite things about Summer Adventure were the robots, the teachers, reading books and meeting new friends. Parents were also excited about the program with one commenting, “I think this is such an amazing program and I’m very fortunate that my daughter has been able to attend. She continues to work on her math and reading and wants to do it even when not in school!”


Over 60 students from kindergarten to fifth grade from Dyersville Elementary, Xavier and other surrounding schools participated in the St. Mark Youth Enrichment summer program that focused on reading proficiency, as well as social-emotional skills. Kids looked forward to hands-on enrichment activities, field trips, and being silly with their teachers and friends. All of this created the perfect scenario—kids were learning without even realizing it!

For the second year in a row, Iowa State Extension and Outreach and the City of Dyersville Park and Rec Department teamed up to provide an afternoon option on Tuesdays for kids who were attending the summer learning program or any child who was looking for an enriching way to learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Along with the St. Mark program, reading is also encouraged on a daily basis through Victory Ford’s Reading for a Reason program and the James Kennedy Public Library’s summer reading program. Both of these programs incentivize and reward students who read throughout the summer.

“It’s exciting to see all the programming taking place in summer,” Jessica Pape, community coordinator for the Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading shared. “When I think back to three years ago, we have made some incredible advances in what is available to all kids throughout the summer in Dyersville.”

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