DES MOINES, Iowa — The non-profit organization Spark Foundation says the pandemic is revealing something its known all along: grade school students are struggling to read at grade level.
“We have all know that our low-income and black and brown students have a lower reading level and score lower than their peers in suburban schools. This [the pandemic] is just putting a magnifying glass on it,” says the Founder of the Spark Foundation, Akil Clark.
The Iowa Department of Education announced Thursday it is seeing a drop this fall in reading proficiency for Kindergarten through First Graders. However, the Spark Foundation is built on the understanding of helping students to read better. The pandemic pushed their need to reach more children into overdrive.
“Once this hit, we had a structure in place where we could bring books directly to students. It meant a lot more. We built a bigger team. We reached out to more teachers. We figured out how do this virtually. We decided this was a time to expand instead of sit back and say hey lets see where this plays out,” Clark says.
Last year, the foundation donated books to 160 students in the Des Moines Public School District. This year it has helped almost 500 students. Spark is working with teachers to distribute books and even mailing them to students to make sure they don’t go without.
“We really hold true to the idea that having a physical book in their hand is going to do more for them in getting them away from the screen and creating a bit of normalcy something they are not doing on a weekly basis.”
The Spark Foundation is accepting corporate and individual donations. The foundation is in works to distribute 1,500 books thanks to the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines.