Iowa Reading Corps aims to improve literacy at Washington Elemen - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Iowa Reading Corps aims to improve literacy at Washington Elementary


Research is showing some surprising numbers on the impacts of early reading skills and graduation rates.

According to a study by New York Professor Donald J. Hernandez, one in six children who are not reading up to level in the third grade fail to graduate on time.

Children are four times more likely to not graduate or graduate on time if they are not good readers, and those numbers become more drastic for children living in poverty.

This critical issue of reading well at a young age is something people at the United Way of Siouxland are well aware of.

"That effects our entire community because we know that if somebody doesn't have a high school diploma, they're going over 70% more likely to be unemployed," Lori Twohig, with the United Way of Siouxland, said.

That's why United Ways in Iowa are doing their part with a new program to help students read better.

Iowa Reading Corps is modeled after a program in Minnesota that has already proven its success in that state.

"You have to read to do math. You have to read to do science. You have to read," Iowa Reading Corps Internal Coach at Washington Elementary Cindy Rilling said.

Educators at Washington Elementary in Sioux City said about a quarter of their students are not proficient in reading, and the Iowa Reading Corps program has already made a big difference for them.

"We had 27 kids that we started with. Out of those 27, 26 of them were proficient when we tested them in the winter. And six of those out of 26 were above and beyond what we expected," Rilling said.

AmeriCorps Member Nicole Belding works with students one-on-one every day for 20 minutes .

"She helped me by reading big words because I only could read small words," 2nd Grader Landon Maaske said.

"Working with Ms. Belding makes me a better reader," 2nd Grader Addisen Nordgren said.

"It's very rewarding watching them finally understand and get it," Belding said.

Some of the students that qualify for this program can't even read a sentence or a word in a book. 

"We look at what we call the bubble kids and those are the kids that are just not quite proficient. They're almost there, but not quite, and those are the kids we serve first," Rilling said.

And, the students said becoming better readers will help them with everything they do in their future.

"When I grow up and read something, I know what it says. So, I just read it and follow that rule. If it says it on a sign or something, like no parking or something like that, I'll can read it and I won't park there," Maaske said.

Little things like reading signs may not seem like a lot for most of us, but it can be a huge accomplishment for these youngsters.

Right now, Washington Elementary is the only school in Sioux City to offer the program.

But, United Way of Siouxland, the organization that funds Iowa Reading Corps, says it's hoping to add more.

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