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March 10, 2016

Muncie-Delaware County Honored as a Pacesetter for Early Literacy Work

National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Recognizes Local Community Coalition for Achieving Measurable Progress in School Readiness and Overall Grade-Level Reading Outcomes

MUNCIE, IND. (MARCH 7, 2016) – Our community has been honored as a Pacesetter by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for making measurable progress on eliminating barriers faced by children from low-income families on the path to becoming proficient readers.

Pacesetter Honors are among the highest awards presented by the Campaign,” said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “We are very proud of Muncie and the numerous organizations and individuals behind them for joining forces and working tirelessly to uplift children and families. They remind us that we are seeing great progress and real results all across the country.”

United Way of Delaware County serves as the sponsoring organization for the local Campaign for Grade Level Reading initiative. In 2011, the principal of Longfellow Elementary asked United Way for help in getting students prepared for IREAD, Indiana’s third grade reading proficiency exam. The following school year, United Way launched an interventionist Reading Club with passionate volunteers to help third graders improve their reading and their comprehension. In that same year, United Way signed on as a partner in the national movement to improve literacy and Delaware County officially became a part of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

“As a backbone organization, United Way is uniquely suited to be a convener,” explained the organization’s president and CEO Jenni Marsh.

“While many agencies are doing the work of eliminating literacy barriers for low-income families and would be doing it regardless of the existence of the coalition, it is by coming together to create a shared vision and goals, and by reporting on our community’s successes, that we have been recognized with this honor,” Marsh said.

Longfellow Elementary’s Reading Club is currently in its fourth year. Since its inception, United Way has started Reading Clubs at Sutton Elementary, South View Elementary and Wes-Del Elementary. On average, in a school year, a reading club volunteer gives approximately 60 hours (or roughly a little over two hours a week) to helping the students.

Coalition members include United Way funded and unfunded partners in literacy work. From child care centers to after school programs, to public healthcare providers and school administrators, the members share challenges and brainstorm solutions.

“One of the gateway skills to life is the ability to read. It’s an honor to have such strong community partners helping us reach this goal,” said Dr. Steven Baule Superintendent of Muncie Community Schools.

In addition to the ongoing work of the coalition partners, United Way’s three key focus areas of 2015 were supporting BY5—the community’s kindergarten readiness initiative, Reading Club, and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. By bringing Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to the community, United Way of Delaware County hopes to instill a love of reading in children and their families. Imagination Library provides children age newborn until age five who are residents of Delaware County with high quality, age-appropriate books sent to their homes on a monthly basis, with no cost to the families.

In Muncie, the Campaign is supported by Ball Brothers Foundation, George and Frances Ball Foundation, Hamer D. and Phyllis C. Shafer Foundation, Indiana Association of United Ways, and the Muncie Altrusa Foundation.

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and is an indicator for success in later life because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” National tests show that two-thirds of U.S. fourth graders (four-fifths of whom are from low-income families) are not reading proficiently. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

Between the years 2012-2015, IREAD-3 pass rates rose from 78.2% to 87.3% for all third graders in Muncie Community Schools. During the same time period, pass rates at Longfellow Elementary shot up from 54.1% to 95.2%.  This remarkable rise was the result of focused efforts by many coalition partners to work with the school and students to improve IREAD-3 scores. In United Way’s Reading Clubs, students advance their reading level by an average of 1.5 grade levels.

“If we’re going to close the achievement gap, we need mobilized communities – like these Pacesetters – working with schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and parents to focus on third-grade reading,” Smith added. “These Pacesetter communities inspire us to believe that great things can happen when all of us support parents, care providers and educators as they work to ensure more hopeful futures for our children.”

Pacesetter Honors have been awarded to communities and partners in the Campaign network since 2012. View the complete list of honorees. This year, 38 Pacesetter communities will be honored at an annual awards luncheon during the Campaign’s 2016 Funder-to-Funder Huddle in Washington, D.C., on April 7. Each Pacesetter will receive a certificate and special recognition banner to showcase their award throughout their communities. Muncie/Delaware County is the only community in Indiana to receive Pacesetter status this year.

If you would like to be involved with Reading Clubs or the Coalition for Campaign for Grade Level Reading, please contact United Way Director of Impact Jim Flatford 765-288-5586 or

About United Way of Delaware County

United Way of Delaware County, Indiana engages the community to improve lives by focusing resources on education, income and health. It also works to create lasting change in community conditions. As the sponsoring organization for the community’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading, United Way is working to help children read at or above grade level by the end of their third grade year. It is during this pivotal point that children transition from learning how to read, into readers who learn from what they have read. United Way is partnering with schools to help at-risk readers meet this important benchmark. We have convened a coalition to identify gaps in services that are preventing children’s success with reading. Together, the coalition is finding ways to bridge those gaps and keep our community’s children on target for success in school and in life. Learn more at

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in May 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. By 2020, the Campaign aims to increase by at least 100 percent the number of children from low-income families reading proficiently by the end of third grade in 12 states or more. Since its launch, the Campaign has grown to include more than 240 communities, representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 2,100 local organizations (including 130 United Ways and 250 state and local funders). To learn more, visit and follow us on Twitter @readingby3rd.