Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
May 1, 1998

Extension gets involved in student reading

by Steve Jones

VISTA and ISU Extension are joining forces to promote reading among Iowa pre-school and elementary students.

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. The goal is to improve students' reading skills and learning habits for greater success in school. Central Iowa counties targeted for a volunteer include Story, Hardin, Webster, Marshall, Tama and Polk.

VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) was created in 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. He said a major aim of the Iowa project, named "Let's Read," is to develop sustainable programs locally.

"It's our goal to have individuals and communities understand the importance of reading with children," said Wendy Brock, state 4-H youth development specialist who's managing the Let's Read project.

Let's Read will advocate use of Iowa's libraries, promote year-round reading programs, and encourage parents and youth to read to one another. Brock said efforts may include organizing reading programs at daycare centers, distributing library cards to youth and recruiting retired or teen volunteers as tutors and classroom readers.

In some northwest counties, reading and tutoring programs will be established for Spanish-speaking families.

Brock said she hopes to have the 40 VISTA positions filled by July. VISTA personnel are not paid a salary, but receive medical insurance and a monthly stipend for food and housing. For more information or an application, contact Brock, 4- 1607,

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