Community Foundation Grade-Level Reading Initiatives Make a Difference for Kids in Rural Communities

In 2014, the Community Foundation received an anonymous donor grant to expand the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading into two rural communities—Dyersville and Jackson County. CFGD brought together people in each community to discuss how children were faring, and how the Campaign might be able to help drive positive change while building rural capacity. 

After discussing eye-opening statistics—29% of third-grade students in Dyersville and an average of 25% of third-grade students in Jackson County schools were not reading proficiently—numerous partners in each community signed on to help drive this important work. The Foundation hired a local coordinator in each community who led their respective partners in the development of a Community Solutions Action Plan (CSAP). This CSAP provided a road map for progress in the areas of school readiness, attendance and summer learning.

In the first year of this work, much of the focus was on building relationships, educating the community, studying best practices and finding the right resources to help each community succeed. CFGD provided support to help community members collaborate effectively, which proved effective as partners started taking initiative to move the needle on grade-level reading. From school districts to local businesses, there was a passion to help all children in the community succeed in school. 

Now, three years later, these efforts are reaping success:

  • In both Dyersville and Jackson County, development of new community events increased awareness of and engagement in the Campaign.
  • In 2016, Jackson County piloted a county-wide summer learning program with four public schools and one parochial school. More than 160 students participated and an average of 76% of students across the four public schools maintained or increased their reading proficiency.
  • The Dyersville Campaign provided funding to support curriculum at St. Mark Youth Enrichment’s summer learning program. In 2016, this program served 56 students;  88% of participants maintained or increased their reading proficiency.
  • Area businesses in Dyersville have taken the initiative to raise funds and awareness for the Campaign, and have started to implement reading incentive programs.
  • Since 2015, 10 Little Free Libraries have been installed throughout Jackson County.  

Local donors, CFGD affiliate foundations, partners and businesses have all committed to continued support of the Campaign in both Dyersville and Jackson County, and are demonstrating the power of community-wide collaboration to create long-term, positive impact for youth.  

To learn more about grade-level reading in Dyersville and Jackson County, visit

Caption: The Dyersville Campaign provided funding to support St. Mark Youth Enrichment’s summer learning program, which helped 88% of its students maintain or increase reading proficiency.



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The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque envisions a vibrant and inclusive Dubuque region where everyone can thrive. Since 2002, we have inspired people to give back to their community, and we turn this generosity into lasting change across our region, increasing access to resources and opportunities that help all people succeed. 

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