Ames, IA

Ames Reads

The common agenda of our network of partners is ensuring all children read and comprehend at or above grade level through the community, families, and schools working together for a collective impact.

Our common goals and measures:

  1. Ensure all children enter kindergarten demonstrating a proficient level of early literacy skills by 2020 as measured by the Phonological Awareness Test (PAT) or other valid and reliable assessments.

Baseline: Fall 2008 – 62% of entering kindergartners were proficient on PAT

Fall 2012 – 75 % of entering kindergartners were proficient on PAT

Target: Fall 2020 – 100% of entering kindergartners proficient

Benchmarks: Fall 2013 – 80% proficient; Fall 2015 – 86% proficient; Fall 2017 – 92% proficient

  1. All children read and comprehend at or above grade level by the end of third grade by 2020 as measured by the Winter Iowa Assessment or other valid and reliable assessments.

Baseline: Winter 2012 – 82% of third graders were proficient on the Iowa Assessment

Target: Winter 2020 – 100% of third graders proficient

Benchmarks: Winter 2014 – 87% proficient; 2016 – 91% proficient; 2018 – 97% proficient

Ongoing Ames Community Initiatives

  1. Reach Out and Read in Story County: Raising Readers of Story County (Raising Readers) adopted the Reach Out and Read program in 2006, and all primary care providers in the county participate. It is a national, evidence-based model that promotes early literacy and school readiness. At each well-child check-up from six months to five years, doctors give new books to children and encourage parents to read aloud daily at home. With financial support from local sponsors and additional books from Reach Out and Read, Raising Readers provides 10,000 new books annually for about 9,000 children.

  2. Reading Corners: Raising Readers has created Reading Corners in 21 public waiting rooms in healthcare, human service agencies and education sites throughout Story County. Each reading corner has a bookcase with a collection of about 40 high quality books as well as framed literacy posters and a rocking chair where space allows. Raising Readers volunteers read to children in some sites. A Raising Readers tool kit describes how to create a reading corner anywhere.

  3. Gift Books: The Raising Readers Gift Book Program puts books into the hands of children who live in families with low incomes or face other risk factors. Gift books are distributed in collaboration with Story County partners serving families in need.

  4. Welcome Baby: Raising Readers volunteers visit new parents at Mary Greeley Medical Center to introduce them to Raising Readers, and deliver a gift packet from the Ames Public Library.

  5. Ames Public Library: The Ames Public Library provides a wide variety of programs to infants, toddlers, children and youth and their families and caregivers.

  • Baby Talk & Toddler Time introduces early literacy skills and practices through activities and reading aloud for infants and toddlers.

  • Family Story time engages preschoolers in literacy skills and models reading techniques for adults.

  • Project Smyles provides outreach to preschools and daycares, engaging infants, toddlers and preschoolers in early literacy activities and helping to develop their skills while modeling effective techniques for adult caregivers. The program visits 102 daycare programs and serves 2,000 children annually.

  • Summer Reading is an incentive-based reading program that encourages children of all ages to read for fun and serves 2,000 children annually.

  • Summer Reading Activities are theme-based programs and that motivate children to read and serve 2,000 children from infant through high school annually.

Recent and Evolving Ames Community Initiatives

  1. Thrive by Five in Story County is a reading and school readiness program for families with children from birth to age five.

  • Thrive by Five offers an innovative adult education program to help families prepare their children for school and reading. It offers (1) reliable information about the development of children 0-5 and school expectations, (2) children’s book suggestions, and (3) fun activities to enjoy at home. Current curriculum units include (1) Language and Literacy Skills, (2) Early Math Concepts, (3) Wellness and Motor Development, and (4) Social and Emotional Development. Families can participate in small group classes or download lessons from the Raising Readers website. Topics to be added include Transitions, Science and Arts.

  • Families are also given the opportunity to create a personalized early literacy and learning plan for each child. Families can use free screening tools to identify their child’s strengths and follow their progress through typical milestones. This child development data will also help identify potential problems early in order to offer timely support.

  1. Community Housing Initiatives (CHI) manages Eastwood Apartments, a subsidized HUD project for families with children. CHI is collaborating with Raising Readers to work with resident children in Eastwood and other low-income neighborhoods to (1) prepare children to enter school ready to read, (2) develop the literacy skills of school-age students, and (3) maintain or increase literacy skills in summer months. Engaging parents will be a key strategy for changing family behaviors and creating long-term impact. Supporting children’s development from birth, through school, and to high school graduation is a way to interrupt the cycle of poverty and lead to more opportunities in life. Through a 3-year pilot grant CHI has developed the Ames Enrichment Academy for families and children that live at Eastwood Apartments. This program is designed to provide afterschool and summer enrichment activities based on the Iowa Core Curriculum in math, reading, science and social studies. These activities, led by volunteer mentors, aim to support the academic performance of kids while also engaging the parents. Once developed the Academy will be replicated in other low-income neighborhoods in the community.

  2. Story Times in Low-Income Neighborhoods is a weekly story time at Eastwood Apartments for children ages 4-10 and their families developed by Raising Readers. A year’s worth of lesson plans featuring stories, poems, songs, and movement are being written to share with others who are involved with low-income neighborhoods.

  3. Summer Literacy Activities were developed and added by one community childcare center to their typical days’ schedule in a pilot project to reduce summer learning loss. The Ames Public Library created a summer literacy outreach program to engage students living in low income housing.

  4. Ames Reading Tutors is a pilot program that was developed by combining the expertise of Iowa State University School of Education faculty, the leadership of Ames Community School District staff, the community outreach of Raising Readers and Ames Reads, and grant funding from Story County Community Foundation. Thirty community volunteers had initial training from Dr. Donald Bear, a renowned expert in helping struggling readers. Twenty reading tutors met with eighteen K-3 elementary students twice a week after school for 12 weeks in the spring of 2013. The children's vocabulary grew significantly from January to April: Ten of the 17 children met benchmark expectations for achievement, and 16 of the 17 scored children grew in reading levels.

  5. BackPack Program, a Food Bank of Iowa program that is supported by United Way of Story County, is helping to provide a backpack full of food intended to feed an elementary-age child in need over the weekend and during school breaks. Raising Readers of Story County provides personally selected gift books to be included in the backpacks each month throughout the school year.

  6. City of Ames supports our efforts and the Mayor of Ames, with the support of the City Council, declared a Proclamation to mobilize volunteers and become a City of Service, with the ultimate vision being to create Ames, A City of Readers.

  7. Little Free Libraries are being built and installed in Ames and nearby communities in neighborhoods easily accessed by children. They will be maintained by stewards and will contain books that children may keep, borrow or exchange throughout the year.

  8. The Minnesota Reading Corps program will be replicated with Sawyer Elementary as a pilot site through a state-wide initiative with United Ways of Iowa. Other Story County elementary schools participating in the Iowa Reading Corps pilot program are at Ballard, Colo-Nesco and Nevada.

On the Horizon:

Readiness for School:

  1. Make “Transitions” from early learning to school easier by increasing common understandings among preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, families, and the community.

  2. Involve families and service providers in developing effective ways to implement Thrive by Five.

  3. Expand Thrive by Five programs to reach caregivers, preschool providers, and home visitors.

  4. Provide additional learning opportunities and support for 4-year-olds whose development is delayed.

  5. Support the Readers at Home Program which offers support to parents of beginning readers, current readers and struggling readers through online activities, workshops and community presentations.

Summer Learning and After School Learning:

  1. Establish a summer learning network of trained volunteers to provide tutoring at 10 different locations – serving over 140 children. Plans are underway to expand the number of tutors, children and activities and to also set-up a Summer Food Program.

  2. Create new activities with academic and enrichment components, including free reading tutors.

  3. Enhance existing community programs by adding literacy-related activities.

  4. Recruit students who are performing below grade level in school, children in families with low incomes, and English Language Learners to participate in planned activities.

  5. Collaborate with ISU to integrate STEM activities in existing and new community literacy programs.

  6. Expand the pilot Ames Reading Tutor program based on the Iowa State University Duffelmeyer Reading Clinic curriculum. The pilot was held after school at Meeker Elementary in spring of 2013.


  1. Conduct a community campaign in September 2013, the first-ever Attendance Awareness Month. The Mayor of Ames, with the support of the City Council, declared a Proclamation declaring the month to kick-off the campaign.

  2. Begin to track attendance at preschools.

  3. Share Attendance Works tools and strategies with Ames Community School District.

  4. Ames Community School District revised the attendance policy to support earlier interventions for families with children having 5 or more absences.

Collective Impact:

  1. Expand community support for the common goals of ready for school and grade level reading.

  2. Promote the Ames Reads Plan of Action. Establish a shared measurement system with an annual report card. Invite organizations, groups and individuals to choose how they want to make a difference by contributing their time, talents and treasures toward getting desired results.

  3. Establish an administrator position to coordinate and support community literacy projects, to facilitate ongoing communication among the network of participants, and to ensure data collection and reporting.

  4. Establish a multi-year budget. Identify various funding streams to support and sustain local initiatives.

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  • Hi Carolyn,

    Hi Carolyn, That sounds great! Thanks for letting me know - and please let me know how the initiative goes so we can share with others.

    Regards, Betsy (in suddenly snowy Des Moines) 

  • Nice work Ames! I'm particularly interested in your training for community volunteers reading with children in the public schools (We could use this in Des Moines, where I am a reading volunteer at an elementary school) and in your outreach to children living in low-income neighborhoods and the little free libraries!

    Look forward to learning more.

    Betsy (the GLR network's new community manager....I visited Ames last spring during Ralph's presentation, when I was not yet working for the campaign!)

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