Summer learning task force aims to put books in every child’s hands

The third grade reading initiative’s success depends a lot on the involvement of people outside the school district. That fact is perhaps is clearest when looking at the efforts of the summer learning loss task force.

Spread the Words – Read by 3rd aims to get 90 percent of third graders reading proficient by 2016. To achieve that goal and live up to the plans that earned Marshalltown an All-America City Award designation, it has broken the effort into three areas, each with its own task force: summer learning loss, attendance and school preparedness.

Bettie Bolar, chair of the summer learning loss task force, said when school is not in session is when other community members can step up to keep the program in the spotlight.

“It’s not just a school issue,” she said. “It’s a community issue.”

The task force will look at three issues within summer learning loss: reduce the loss of learning, help the community be aware and inform it how to be involved and establish methods to help make it easier for parents to keep their children learning.

The task force has already set its sights on one such program. Volunteers will establish reading circles at Anson Elementary following the school’s summer lunch program. The task force is calling it Munch & More.

“When they are finished eating, they can have an adult volunteer read to them,” Bolar said.

The task force will include information about the program in the menus the school sends home with students. JBS even featured Munch & More in its employee newsletter.

Bolar said the group is looking to establish book corners in areas around town. The corners would almost act as an extension of the library, providing books to those who frequent those establishments. Such places would include laundromats, local businesses and banks.

Anything that increases the availability of the written word is in the group’s wheelhouse, she said.

“Kids in our target group don’t have access to books,” she said.

The group is also working on a 10 easy summer reading tips handout.

Just like the other task forces, Bolar said the summer learning loss task force faces a unique challenge.

“How do we measure the effectiveness of this?” she said. “How do we know that is making a difference?”

She said educators will gauge effectiveness by comparing reading scores when kids exit second grade, and if those scores are trending upward, the task force will have an idea of its program’s impact.

Heidi Pierson, who works on the school readiness task force through the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation, said all the task forces are working together to ensure the focus remains codified. The task forces all have the goal to present parents with different ways to think about education.

Bolar said, just like the other two task forces, the summer learning loss task force is still seeking volunteers.

To become a volunteer or for more information, contact Lindsey Upah at 641-752-7162 ext. 155.