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Governor announces new reading initiative

Nonprofits will work together to boost after-school reading programs, officials say

By KHI NEWS SERVICE | November 14, 2013

Gov. Sam Brownback and other officials held a press conference today to describe the administration's new "Reading Roadmap" program, saying it would be aimed at boosting reading skills of fourth graders from low-income homes with the ultimate goals of reducing childhood poverty and teen pregnancy rates.

"We want to break the cycle of child poverty," Brownback said. "I'm convinced a key part of breaking that (cycle) is getting them able to read."

Brownback said Kansas' reading scores already put it among the top 10 states in the nation, "but we can do better."

He said $9 million in federal aid dollars would be used to bankroll the effort, though private funding also is being sought to augment the after-school reading program. The goal is to involve children from at least 40 rural and urban schools in various parts of the state, officials said.

The effort will rely in part on volunteers and some existing after-school programs such as the Boys and Girls Club and was endorsed by local school officials who attended the press conference, which was held at a Topeka Boys and Girls Club.

Brownback said the initiative would build bridges and coordination between school districts and after-school programs.

"We're wanting to knit them together with the K-12 system," he said.

Brownback said the state would direct the federal dollars from the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund to a nonprofit group, The Rural School and Community Trust, in the form of a grant. That group will then distribute the money to programs such as Reading Recovery and Save the Children, which will develop or augment after-school reading programs and seek parent involvement in the efforts.

"When this partnership came to our attention we were not only excited but truly enthusiastic to move forward," said Robert Mahaffey, the group's communications and marketing director.

Joyce Glasscock, regional government relations director for the Boys and Girls Club, said the organization also looked forward to being involved in the initiative.

A more in-depth story about the initiative was published Wednesday by KHI News Service.

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