Stan Johnson, Extension, (515) 294-6192
Wendy Brock, State Youth and 4-H, (515) 294-1607
Steve Jones, News Service, (515) 294-4778
VISTA, ISU EXTENSION TO EXPAND 'AMERICA READS' PROGRAM THROUGHOUT IOWA; 40 POSITIONS ASSIGNED TO COUNTY OFFICES
AMES, Iowa -- VISTA and Iowa State University Extension are joining forces to promote reading among Iowa pre-school and elementary age students and their families.
Forty VISTA volunteers will be placed in 26 ISU Extension offices this summer to expand the U.S. Department of Education's "America Reads Challenge" program in Iowa. The volunteers, who will have one-year assignments with Extension, will initiate reading programs in more than 30 counties. The goal is to improve students' reading skills and learning habits for greater success in school.
VISTA is the Volunteers in Service to America program, which was created by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as a "domestic Peace Corps" to fight poverty.
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Iowa State University Extension to become even more actively involved in many Iowa communities," said Stanley Johnson, vice provost for Extension. "We believe we will make a life-long impact on many young people and their parents. At the same time, we are hopeful we will increase awareness of Iowa's literacy concerns."
Johnson said a major aim of the Iowa project, named "Let's Read," is to develop sustainable programs in local areas.
"We envision programs that will continue to serve the literacy needs of Iowans long after the VISTA volunteers have completed their Extension assignments," said Wendy Brock, state 4-H youth development specialist who's managing the Let's Read project.
"It's our goal to have individuals and communities as a whole understand the importance of reading with children," Brock said.
Brock believes the programs will improve the school readiness of youth. Let's Read programs will provide support for families that may not be accustomed to reading with their children or helping their children with homework and other school-related activities, she said.
Volunteers will develop new programs and expand existing ones to assist youth in improving their reading skills and to make reading an enjoyable part of their lives, said Joel Weinstein, the Iowa director for the Corporation for National Service, which oversees the VISTA program.
"We want to create an interest in children to read," Weinstein added.
Let's Read will utilize a number of strategies to advocate use of Iowa's libraries, promote year-round reading programs at schools and libraries, and encourage parents and youth to read to one another. Brock said specific efforts may include organizing reading programs at day-care centers, distributing more library cards to youth and recruiting volunteers (including retired citizens and teens) as tutors and classroom readers.
In select counties, Let's Read will provide computer access for low-income families. Volunteers will show families how to use computers and other forms of technology to help teach and promote reading.
Reading programs also will be established for Spanish-speaking families in some northwest Iowa counties. For example, it is believed the availability of more adult and youth Spanish- language books will encourage Hispanic families to use libraries, Brock said. In addition, community volunteers may provide year- round tutoring for individuals whose first language is Spanish.
Brock said Extension hopes to have the 40 VISTA positions filled by July. VISTA personnel are volunteers and are not paid a salary. However, they receive a monthly stipend for food and housing. Other benefits include medical insurance; personal, medical and emergency leave; and an education award or stipend available at the end of the VISTA assignment.
Volunteers must be college graduates, and they cannot hold other jobs or attend school during their assignments.
Individuals may apply for a VISTA position or obtain additional information by contacting Wendy Brock at (515) 294-1607 or on the Internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
VISTA volunteers in the Let's Read program will assist with the literacy needs of citizens in more than 30 Iowa counties. The volunteers will be housed in 25 counties:
Pottawattamie (East & West Extension offices)
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