The high school graduation rate of 70% in 2010 wasn’t good enough for school and community leaders including the Casper Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming. They got serious and created “We Read,” a county-wide intensive program promoting literacy as a core value in the whole community. They were determined to have all children in the Natrona County population of 70,000 reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade and ultimately raise the high school graduation rate to 100%.
Kid Scoop, one of the elements of the “We Read” program, celebrates the continuing success of the Casper community literacy program! The “We Read” public-private partnership has been providing family reading materials and books each month. The Casper Star-Tribune has been publishing 25,000 copies of a weekly children’s magazine “My Trib” with Kid Scoop activity pages in it, a calendar of literacy events and reviews of the paperback books given out each month.
“The Kid Scoop material is educational while being fun for children,” says Dale Bohren, publisher-emeritus of the Casper Star-Tribune, who included Kid Scoop in the newspaper supplement as part of the Natrona County literacy program, “We Read.”
Lisa B. Scroggins, executive director of the Natrona County Library, reported: “The library does not solicit direct feedback here at the library, but anecdotal feedback indicates parents and children alike enjoy the Kid Scoop pages included in We Read’s ‘My Trib’ magazine insert in the newspaper. They are fun, and draw kids in. For many, this is the ‘go to’ when their receive their Casper Journal.”
With the help of several Casper foundations, a local bank and the school district in a public-private collaboration, the county-wide “We Read” program has been giving a paperback book each month for four years to every child in grades K-3 for their personal libraries. The Natrona County library holds monthly discussions of these children’s books, and there is intensive media promotion to “Spend 20 minutes a day reading with someone special.” All adults in the county are continually encouraged to ask children about the books they were reading: “What book are you reading this week?”
The results were remarkable. By 2017, the multi-agency “We Read” program reported the on-time graduation rate improved to 81.8%. According to the Wyoming Department of Education research, “the percentage of high school graduates almost directly correlated with the number of third-graders reading at or above grade level.”
As Dale Bohren, publisher-emeritus of the Star-Tribune said, “Over the years as publisher, I saw a lot of children’s features come across my desk, but they were not aligned with our mission. The Kid Scoop material is educational while being fun for children.”
He also explained the importance of the full media coverage of the “We Read” community literacy project — it included print, web, video, television, radio ads, billboards, cinema ads, interactive digital ads, its own website and even a lively mascot that appeared at community events. By 2014, research reported the media impact: 94% of the community had seen an ad or heard of the “We Read” slogan to “Spend 20 minutes a day reading with someone special.”
The “We Read” community literacy campaign continues to move forward based on data gathered from each annual survey and reports from community focus groups. The partnership has recently produced an Apple Play app to reach the 8-10% of adults that research discovered were not reading to children at home. The “We Read” app includes free reading games for children and opportunities to earn badges as rewards. The “My Trib” weekly children’s magazine published in the Star-Tribune will incorporate even more: stories, interactive activities for parents and children, a reading log, tips for parents, careers with information on why reading is so important for success in the workplace and more.
Vicki Whiting, creator of the Kid Scoop weekly feature, applauds the “We Read” program. “The core value of the Casper community literacy initiative aligns perfectly with the values and goals of Kid Scoop, and we are honored to be part of their work to help children succeed in reading, graduate from high school, and go on to contribute to the economic growth of Wyoming.”
The writer of this article is Ellen Creane. She is a freelance reporter for newspapers, an ESL college instructor, a former NIE manager at three newspapers, and a marketing communications professional. To reach her for your project, email email@example.com. Also see her LinkedIn profile.
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