Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading focuses on school attendance, literacy

Grant provides children’s books in Spanish

Thanks to the work of the Dyersville Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR), Dyersville students are spending more time reading at home and understanding the importance of school attendance.

Last year, Dyersville GLR received a grant from Black Hills Energy to purchase books for English language-learners. “We sat down with our principals and asked what supports they need,” said Jessica Pape, Dyersville community coordinator for the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “What we heard was that there are a lot of families living in the area who are Spanish-speaking, and the kids would take books home to read aloud but parents couldn’t read to them if they didn’t speak English.”

Students can now check out books written in both Spanish and English, and they were also given books to keep at home. “The reaction from parents and kids has been phenomenal,” Pape said. “It’s a great way to connect the parents to their school — to their community — to let them know we’re here to help them and give every child the opportunity to succeed.”

The book program is just one way Dyersville GLR works year-round to engage students and families. GLR remains active throughout the school year, supporting and promoting events in the community and fostering readiness and attendance in Dyersville’s schools.

For example, GLR highlights the importance of attendance during a kick-off to the new school year and continues to stress that message all year. “We send home a lot of literature to make sure parents know how important attendance is,” said Pape. Chronic absence — missing 10 percent or more of school days for any reason — can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school, according to Attendance Works, a nonprofit and research organization focused on reducing chronic absences.

Dyersville schools are emphasizing attendance with vigor, offering incentives and giving the issue top priority in family newsletters. “We’ve seen that to be a true success story of the campaign,” said Pape. “We’ve brought awareness to it, and our schools are taking it on and bringing it to the forefront.”

GLR has also become well-known for its support of the St. Mark Youth Enrichment summer program and has worked to build partnerships with other community entities to help enhance the program. Last summer, all 58 attendees maintained or improved their literacy scores.

The Dyersville Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, provides financial support for the Dyersville GLR coordinator role and also serves as the 501(c)3 overseeing the initiative, allowing Pape to apply for grants. “We wouldn’t be able to have the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Dyersville without the Dyersville Area Community Foundation,” said Pape. “They are the backbone: Helping to keep things going, providing oversight, and making sure things are aligning well. We are very grateful for their support.”

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