Every July, the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announces Pacesetter communities, showcasing extraordinary vision and exemplifying best practices in the area of early learning. Since 2013, United Way of Story County’s local campaign collaboration, Story County Reads, has been awarded that honor every year in at least one area.
For efforts in impacting our youngest students over the past year, Story County Reads has been selected as one of 22 finalist communities, reflecting the seven “Must Do Priorities” named by the Campaign for early school success:
• Stop playing catch-up
• End chronic absence
• Reverse the summer slide
• Address health-related challenges
• Equip parents to succeed
• Advance grade-level reading and math
• Slow learning loss and accelerate equitable learning recovery
Story County Reads is a cross-county collaboration, including partners such as Raising Readers in Story County, YSS, Boys & Girls Clubs of Story County, local public libraries, Story County school districts, and many more. Through a variety of programs and services, Story County Reads is able to push the needle in increasing third grade reading levels, a detrimental factor in future educational success. Our partners provide reading tutors, summer enrichment programs, parent programming, before and after school care, educational summer camps, and beyond. These wrap around supports are crucial to encouraging growth and development in young learners outside of school hours.
One program exemplifying the requirements for Pacesetter recognition is the new STARS program created by Raising Readers in Story County. STARS – Singing – Talking – and Reading for Success, is a family engagement program based on LENA Home. The program model involves supporting caregivers with having positive talk and interactions with their children age 0-3 within the home. This research-based program leans heavily into the belief that the parent/caregiver is the child’s first and most important teacher for language development and learning. This innovative program took to combat the increased decline of language development in young learners that proceeded the closure of schools during the pandemic. Families could meet virtually with a coach to complete curriculum and engage in discussions around weekly topics.
As we advance in the fight for health, education, and financial stability for all, leading the way in innovative programming for the nation as a whole is certainly an honor to be celebrated. We look forward to the announcement of the winning Pacesetter communities later this summer, and celebrate bring represented with 21 other pioneers as a national finalist.