KC receives almost $100,000 to boost reading

Kansas City has received two grants totaling nearly $100,000 to help galvanize a citywide reading crusade, Mayor Sly James announced Friday.

With an initiative dubbed Turn the Page, James has made it a priority to get all the city’s children reading at grade level by third grade. The money will assist in the recruitment of literacy volunteers and the development of training and assessment materials.

“We will be a place where young people’s brains thrive,” James said at a news conference to announce the grants. “Together we can make Kansas City a city of readers.”

Kansas City was one of eight cities nationally to be awarded a Cities of Service grant funneled through the Bloomberg Foundation and funded by Target Corp.

The city intends to recruit 500 new and returning literacy tutors to boost reading scores among targeted first- through third-graders in the Kansas City, Park Hill, Center and Hickman Mills school districts. A $40,000 grant will help train volunteers and measure their impact.

A second grant of about $50,000 was awarded by the AmeriCorps VISTA national service program to help pay for five VISTA employees serving the four districts in the literacy effort.

James said a literacy tutoring effort hosted at 30 sites this summer has already borne fruit. About 2,400 urban core students read dozens of books over eight weeks. Preliminary test results showed 81 percent improved their reading scores by half a grade level.

James also named a new board of civic leaders to propel his initiative forward. They include Tim Barton, CEO of FreightQuote; Bert Berkley, chairman of Tension Corp.; Sandra Lawrence, CFO of Children’s Mercy; Judy Heeter, president of Pathfinder Consulting; Carol Hallquist, president of Hallmark Corporate Foundation; Uzziel Pecina, assistant clinical professor of educational administration at UMKC; Donna Houpe, executive administrator of Harvest Church International Outreach; and Philip Hickman, principal at Genesis Promise Academy.