Central Iowa students who take part in a literacy program are getting free books this week as part of Power Reading Week.

Karen Ligas, executive director of “Everybody Wins! Iowa,” says this is the 9th year for the effort which aims to increase students’ success in school — and in life — by highlighting the power of reading and mentoring.

“We recruit volunteers from the community to come in and read one-to-one with students each week at the same time with the same student during the school year and we also do summer programming as well,” Ligas says. “Last year, we served 919 students across 38 central Iowa locations.”

A study finds the ratio of books to children in low-income neighborhoods is one book per 300 children, while it’s 13 books per child in middle- and upper-income areas. Through this program, each student can earn up to six books per school year.
Ligas says, “We try to select books that are very popular with the students and help them to select books that they want to read to send home to read with their families.”

A survey finds there are more than 14-hundred elementary school students in central Iowa who are not reading at their grade level. The program is seeing success, Ligas says, in getting more students to increase their pleasure reading outside of school. She says reading has to compete with many other things to hold a youngster’s attention.

“Students may not be reading at grade level because they aren’t choosing to read outside of classroom time,” Ligas says. “Videos and video games and other activities, a lot of times students are engaged in those activities instead of reading.” As part of the program, students and mentors spend time talking, reading aloud, and instilling positive attitudes about reading. Mentors also serve as role models to enhance students’ self-esteem and encourage their success through consistent weekly positive interactions.

Ligas notes, the program is 275 mentors short of its goal for this school year. Find a mentor application online at: everybodywinsiowa.org