From right, Shawn Larsen holds his daughter, Athena, as she brushes the teeth of a friendly-looking stuffed monster with I-Smile Registered Dental Hygienist Dena White during a dental health-themed StoryWalk event at the Council Bluffs Public Library in March.

Raise Me to Read has been honored with a Pacesetter Award by the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

The program, which is under the nonprofit organization Family Inc., was named a Pacesetter in Building the Community Learning for Impact & Improvement for its work during 2018 to support early school success.

“Recognizing Pacesetters is our way of applauding and thanking the civic leaders, organizations and agencies that have joined forces to build brighter futures for children in their communities,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of CGLR. “We are learning with them and from them what it takes to move the needle and close the gap. Mobilized communities — like these Pacesetters — are essential to ensuring school success.”

It was at least the sixth Pacesetter Award for Council Bluffs, along with awards in 2012-16.

In Council Bluffs, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading began as “CB Reads.” Raise Me to Read was launched in 2016 and took over the campaign in the community, which was named an All American City in 2017, said Brenda Moran, director. Raise Me to Read has held school and community events, given away thousands of books and established a permanent StoryWalk path in Sunset Park.

“We have given away over 8,100 books in our efforts to help children who may not have very many books at home,” she said.

The program is sponsored by the Iowa West Foundation, United Way of the Midlands and private donors, Moran said.

Raise Me to Read has held StoryWalks in conjunction with Halloween, the Celebrate CB Parade, the Council Bluffs Farmers Market and other events. For Halloween, Iowa Western Community College students dressed up in costumes to assist with the walk. The organization partnered with ISU Extension & Outreach Service for the parade and recruited superheroes to help at the farmers market event.

The organization helped sponsor author Eric Litwin’s visit to Kreft Primary School in September 2018 and helped bring him back for performances at the Council Bluffs Public Library and Impact Hill in Oakland in February. Raise Me to Read partnered with Iowa Public Television to bring Daniel Tiger to town for events at the library and Children’s Square USA, Moran said.

“I didn’t realize what a rock star Daniel Tiger was, but there were hundreds of people there,” she said.

Raise Me to Read is also part of Family’s annual Dr. Seuss Literacy Night.

The program even partnered with Pottawattamie County Conservation and First Congregational Church on an event with gnome homes, games and crafts at Bayliss Park and the church, Moran said.

In a clear case of genius meeting opportunity, Raise Me to Read and FAMILY’s I-Smile program joined Ryan Hajek, dentist at My Pediatric Dentistry, to provide information on oral hygiene to guests viewing the skeleton of Scotty, the T-Rex, in June at The Durham Museum in Omaha. Hajek, accompanied by the Tooth Fairy and Mr. Molar, told guests about the tooth impaction evident in Scotty’s skeleton — which must have caused an earth-shaking toothache — and why good oral hygiene is important. Raise Me to Read provided books about good dental hygiene for them to give away, Moran said.

“It’s trying to naturally insert literacy into the everyday,” she said.

Raise Me to Read provided bedtime books for the Charles E. Lakin YMCA to give away during its Cuddles and Cookies event, Moran said.

Raise Me to Read will distribute “Thomas the Tank” books at the Union Pacific Railroad Museum during Railroad Days this weekend. It is collaborating with Boys Town Iowa to hold a StoryWalk on “Ten Little Rubber Ducks,” by Eric Carle, opposite a parenting class by Boys Town. The event will begin with a free meal and run from 5 to 7 p.m. July 16 at Bloomer Elementary School.

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