Jackson County: Growing a Generation of Young Readers


Interns with Ohnward Bancshares at Maquoketa State Bank were inspired by the Jackson County Grade-Level Reading Campaign and helped open the first Little Free Library in Maquoketa on July 23, 2015. Their actions have since inspired community leaders throughout Jackson to set up 10 Little Free Libraries by 2017.

In 2013, when school administrator Kim Huckstadt noticed that young kids were not succeeding at his school because they couldn’t read, he approached the Community Foundation of Jackson County with the idea of becoming a Campaign for Grade-Level Reading community to make a difference for his students.

That dream became a reality in 2014 thanks to the Philanthropic Tools project grant, which supports training and technical assistance in Jackson County.

“Our board decided we wanted to put more emphasis on the youth in Jackson County because they’re our future,” says CFJC Executive Director Mary Jo Gothard. “We knew we needed to do something to help improve that area in any way we could.”

This project brought together schools, parents, nonprofits, community leaders and funders for a single purpose: to ensure more low-income children read at grade level by the end of third grade. Studies show that 74% of kids who are behind at this critical milestone do not graduate from high school.

Organizers held individual meetings with 60 Jackson County residents and formed a committee of 30 initial stakeholders in late January of 2015. After discussing eye-opening statistics—nearly a quarter of Jackson County students in kindergarten through third grade were not reading at grade level—committee members voted unanimously to become a Campaign community. “I know if we have a literate county, that’s the best thing for our students,” says Linda Nudd, Jackson County Grade-Level Reading Campaign coordinator. “I want our students to be successful and I will do anything I can to make that happen.”

One presentation was to a group of interns at Ohnward Bancshares at Maquoketa State Bank.

“All of the interns were engaged and asked lots of great questions,” reflected Corrine Kroger, CFGD Grade-Level Reading coordinator. “It didn’t take long for the same group of young leaders to open the first Little Free Library in Maquoketa on July 23, 2015.”

By the end of 2016, there will be 10 Little Free Libraries throughout Jackson County.

The Outcomes

  • 50 stakeholders engaged on the GLR Steering Committee

  • 32,974 Dolly Parton Imagination Library books mailed since the program started in 2010

  • 10 Little Free Libraries built by 2017

  • 46 students received free eye exams and 17 received glasses from Vision to Learn

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