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Alison Gowans
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Nov. 20, 2023 – The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is recognizing Cedar Rapids with Pacesetter Honors for its 2022–23 work.  

Cedar Rapids was recognized for a partnership between Reading into Success, the Cedar Rapids Public Library, and YPN. Reading into Success is the local Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. 

As part of efforts to help parents and caregivers see themselves as a child’s first teacher, the organizations joined together to provide literacy education and supports for immigrant, refugee, and minority families. Twelve sessions were held in two formats to help parents and caregivers realize their power as their child’s first teacher. Nine sessions were after‐school, with preschool families invited to eat dinner, listen to stories, and complete a literacy-based craft together. Three sessions were held within the structure of YPN family classes. Families also took home two books each session to expand their home library. 

Three staff members from the Cedar Rapids Public Library and Reading into Success provided instruction and resources covering school success, child development practices, and early literacy techniques. Families received an engagement kit at the end of the three sessions. 

The program was supported by Linn County Early Childhood Iowa and the Linn County DECAT board. The library was awarded $25,000 through a grant process last year as a pilot, and the funding continues for this fiscal year. 

“Through our collaborative partners in the community, we can make a larger impact for children and families,” said Cedar Rapids Public Library Literacy Coordinator Elizabeth Yusko, who coordinates Reading into Success. “Thank you to YPN, Linn County Early Childhood Iowa, and the Cedar Rapids Public Library for continuing to see the importance of supporting our youngest citizens. Investing early in a child’s future will ultimately lead to stronger and more productive members of society. I call that a win! Being recognized for this work proves we are making a positive impact in our community.” 

The theme of the Pacesetter Honors this year is “Moving the Needle in Impact Areas” and the categories are:  

  • Ensure that fewer children start school so far behind;  

  • End chronic absence during the school year (including kindergarten);  

  • Ensure that striving and struggling readers make progress during the summer;  

  • Address children’s health-related challenges to learning;  

  • Equip parents to succeed as their children’s first teachers, advocates, and coaches;  

  • Advance, align, and integrate grade-level reading and math; and 

  • Slow learning loss and accelerate equitable learning recovery through access to the internet, tutors, and out-of-school learning. 

“It indeed is time to move the needle in impact areas and these Pacesetter Communities demonstrate how mobilized communities are succeeding,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “Let us all learn and grow from recognizing and understanding what they’ve accomplished. We applaud the civic leaders and local funders whose time, talent, energy and imagination have fueled progress in these Pacesetter Communities.” 

A collaborative effort by funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on promoting early schools success as an important building block of more hopeful futures for children in economically challenged families and communities.   

Cedar Rapids was also recognized with a Pacesetter Honor in 2022 for efforts supporting student success during the twin crises of the derecho and COVID-19 pandemic.