JCCF supports Grade-Level Reading

Heather Weers

     Jones County Community Foundation (JCCF) board members have decided to fund the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading initiative in Jones County for one year, and have hired a coordinator, Anamosa resident Heather Weers, to explore needs and potential solutions in the region.

     In Jones County public schools, two-thirds of third-graders are meeting standards for reading at their age. According to a 2016-17 assessment by the Iowa Department of Education, the other third of those students are behind. That statistic is in line with the national average.

     “Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success,” said Rachel Williams, youth impact coordinator at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. “Research shows that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables students to shift from learning to read to reading to learn and master the more complex subject matter they will encounter in the future.”

     Williams met with JCCF’s board members to highlight the importance of third-grade reading and introduce the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The program has proved successful in Jackson County, Dubuque and Dyersville, where summer programs help students maintain their reading levels and coordinators promote community-wide literacy events, schools readiness, and school attendance.

     Weers also works for Jones County DECAT and Community Partnerships for Protecting Children, a community-based organization for the prevention of child abuse and neglect. She and her husband, Nic, have three sons attending school in Anamosa.

     Weers will begin her work by meeting with administrators and other groups around the county, collecting feedback on student needs and opportunities for impact.

     “I love helping kids in any way I can,” said Weers. “Last year I volunteered in the elementary school in Anamosa. You could be there all day long with the same kid helping them read, so I think there’s a lot of need. But the teachers don’t always have the time, because they have other things they’re teaching and other kids to help.”

     The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is based on the belief that schools cannot succeed alone. The Campaign supports engaged communities mobilizing to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children.

     “It’s not just the school’s responsibility to tackle this issue. It’s a community issue,” said Sherri Hunt, JCCF coordinator. “Third grade is really a threshold to long-term success, so if we want our community to be successful, we have to make sure our children are successful at a young age.”


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