Dubuque organization seeks funds to establish countywide summer reading program

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) – The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque is requesting $700,000 in U.S. bailout funds from Dubuque County supervisors to create a countywide summer reading program. The money will go towards things like partnering with different organizations and ensuring students have learning materials and transportation.

“We can really help identify how to make those connections so that children move from their morning reading session to their afternoon reading session seamlessly with the transition and identifying where can we build additional capacity, where can we improve the quality of teaching and get additional material in there,” explained Alex Baum, director of initiatives for the foundation.

CFGD officials said the idea behind the program is to help students who have fallen behind in reading due to the pandemic to catch up.

“I think we will never really know and understand the impact of the pandemic in the years to come,” said Lisa TeBockhorst, executive director of elementary education for the Dubuque Community School District.

But what school officials now know is the impact it had on reading skill levels. For example, the state test administered last year shows that only 44 percent of third graders in Dubuque read at the grade level.

“Students haven’t been able to make the same kinds of gains that we would typically see in a school year where they come together every day for 90 minutes of English, language and language instruction. arts,” she added.

TeBockhorst said that as students have returned to normal, those numbers have increased. She said, for example, that elementary students have developed their reading skills by 55% so far this school year. However, she mentioned that there were still gaps.

“If they’re not there yet in year three, it’s really important that we put everything in place to facilitate that,” she added.

That’s why the school district partnered with CFGD to develop the idea of ​​the county-wide summer reading program.

“Any time you have a group of people working collectively and collaboratively on behalf of children, that’s a win,” she said. “We’re going to see some positive results from that.”

Cynthia Wehrenberg, FGGD Youth Impact Coordinator, stressed the importance of ensuring students are fluent in reading in third grade, saying that’s when students stop learning. to read and start reading to learn.

“They need it to help close the gap caused by the pandemic and it will take all members of our community working together to be able to do that,” she added.

Wehrenberg said the program also aims to ensure that students from underrepresented communities have access to summer reading programs.

“It is important for us to give these students the same access, awareness and ease of enrollment as their counterparts,” she commented.

The foundation’s request to county supervisors is asking for $200,000 a year for the next three years to coordinate the program. Foundation officials explained that they will also donate $50,000 each to St. Mark’s Youth Enrichment and the Dubuque Dream Center, two local organizations they plan to partner with on this and are already working to fill the gaps. in reading skills.

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