Reading is a gateway skill and our public schools are working harder than ever to ensure all children become strong readers. Iowa has made an ambitious commitment to strengthen literacy instruction in the early grades—a commitment that is beginning to show results statewide.

K-3 Reading: Helping Strengthen Reading Skills

Watch and see how Vinton-Shellsburg Community Schools helped put Cal, a struggling reader, back on track for success.

Early Literacy Matters

Third grade is an important gateway: children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Research shows that students who are strong readers by the end of third grade are more likely to succeed in school, graduate, go on to college, and earn a living wage. Early reading difficulties have been linked to long-term consequences. Students are at increased risk of dropping out of school, less likely to attend college, and less likely to find a job and earn a living wage.

In 2012, local school boards, educators and state policy makers came together to support a comprehensive early literacy effort to break through barriers for struggling readers. Today public schools all across Iowa are focused on putting in place new approaches to strengthen reading instruction, including:

Screening K-3 students three times per year for reading difficulties

Using research and data to help get struggling readers back on track

Monitoring struggling readers’ progress and adjusting instruction accordingly

Communicating with parents to keep them better engaged and informed

Expanding summer reading programs for struggling readers

Considering retaining at-risk students at the end of third grade to give them more time to gain reading skills


Supports for Struggling Readers Are Working

Meet Curtis, a fourth grader at West Monona Elementary who was recently placed in the top reading group in his class. Curtis was identified as a student in need of intervention during third grade.

“Iowa’s schools are focused on preparing students for success in high school and beyond, and that success begins with developing strong reading skills."

Ryan Wise, Iowa Department of Education Director

“We are now better equipped than at any point in time to identify which students are on track and which ones aren’t, and we have tools to spring into action with instruction that works. Knowledge is power, and when we know what students need, we are much more effective at providing the right interventions.”

Jane Lindaman, Waterloo Community Schools Superintendent

K-3 Reading Fact Sheet

Want to dig deeper into facts and figures about K-3 reading improvement efforts in Iowa public schools? Download the 2-page fact sheet to learn more about why K-3 reading matters, facts about K-3 reading efforts, and the results Iowa public schools are seeing across the state.

Download the K-3 reading fact sheet