Guest Columnist

Laying groundwork for a more literate generation

Stacks of books rest on a table at an assembly in the Novak Elementary School Library in Marion on Friday, May 6, 2016. The event was the final one in a weeklong series of educational activities and a book drive within the Linn-Mar Community School District to benefit the Cedar Rapids chapter of Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization that advocates for childhood literacy by incorporating books into pediatric care. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Stacks of books rest on a table at an assembly in the Novak Elementary School Library in Marion on Friday, May 6, 2016. The event was the final one in a weeklong series of educational activities and a book drive within the Linn-Mar Community School District to benefit the Cedar Rapids chapter of Reach Out and Read, a non-profit organization that advocates for childhood literacy by incorporating books into pediatric care. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation wants the children in our community to dream of possibilities for their lives and to have the skills they need to reach their dreams.

Children with strong literacy skills have broad possibilities for their futures. Research shows that students who are not proficient in reading by third grade are four times more likely to not graduate on time — and 13 times more likely if they also are from a low-income household.

Pre-literacy skills learned during the preschool years provide a vital platform for reading. Key among these is oral language skills, supported by verbal interactions and experiences with others. Families can create a literacy-rich environment for their children by keeping books in their home and reading aloud to children.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library will help families create these literacy-rich environments. Research suggests that children who participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library are better prepared for kindergarten, and the effects of the program are extended to third-grade reading scores and beyond. The program is free to participants, open to all children in Cedar Rapids, and will provide an age-appropriate book each month until the child reaches age 5.

This Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation initiative helps support the goals of Reading into Success, a community collaborative designed to improve student success. Part of the nationwide Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the goal of Reading into Success is to increase the number of children reading proficiently by third grade.

In addition to the Cedar Rapids Public Library and the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation, partners include four school districts and more than 20 organizations and programs all working to help kids read proficiently.

As a community foundation, we have been supporting student educational success for years through scholarships, matching grants for teachers on DonorsChoose.org, and grants to nonprofits. The Community Foundation sees our investment in the Library Foundation’s effort to become an affiliate of the Dolly Parton Imagination Library as integral to our communitywide responsibility to make sure children are ready for kindergarten and able to achieve reading bench marks.

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We are proud to have invested in this effort. We hope that by supplying books to children up to 5 years of age, we can lay the groundwork for creating a more literate generation. We believe that this effort can move the needle of literacy in our community, but we know that the Cedar Rapids Public Library Foundation cannot do it alone. We encourage you to consider supporting this effort as well and help our kids achieve their dreams.

• Karla Twedt-Ball is senior vice president for programs and community investment with the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.

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