Grinnell College Supports Youth Literacy in the Community with Funds, Resources, Programs, and Partnerships

January 13, 2023

The Gift of Reading 

As an institution dedicated to teaching and learning, Grinnell College is committed to helping people along their journey of discovery, not only among students at the College, but also within the larger community. 

Among the many ways the College supports community education is through support of community-wide youth literacy initiatives. 

Janet Stutz, Grinnell-Newburg Community School District superintendent, shared, "The Grinnell-Newburg School District is fortunate to be a part of a community that rallies around our students to provide not only financial support, but also pulls together a ‘team’ of partners to ensure that students have state-of-the-art learning opportunities and enhanced authentic experiences." 

Grinnell Education Partnership 

The Grinnell Education Partnership brings together community nonprofits, area employers, the Grinnell-Newburg School District, and community volunteers to ensure that children in Grinnell get both a strong start and a strong finish to their school experience. 

Grinnell College partners with the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation to support the network of community organizations that serve as community-based innovators in support of Grinnell’s kids and families, bringing their respective skills, knowledge, resources, and creativity to the table. Over time, the network’s efforts have been successful, with consistent strength in a variety of literacy measures. Even during the depths of the pandemic in 2020, more than 70 percent of local third graders were reading proficiently, and 84 percent of summer school students demonstrated improved reading skills with the support of the Grinnell Education Partnership. 

Recent GEP activities include:  

  • Collaborating with Grinnell Middle School and GNSF (Grinnell Newburg School Foundation) to pilot after-school transportation for students who participate in the Grinnell Middle School academic support program 
  • Partnering with the Bayer Fund to provide $10,000 in funding for snacks for young people involved in community summer programming 
  • Partnering with MCG (Mahaska Communication Group) and GNSF to facilitate affordable internet access for qualifying Grinnell area families  

Creating Readers for Life 

Grinnell College also recently helped the Grinnell-Newburg School District update youth collections in the libraries of each of its five schools. A gift of $5,000, supported by a grant to Grinnell College from the Mellon Foundation, enabled the district to revamp its collections through the purchase of up-to-date, relevant, and interesting humanities resources. Each school library received funding for the purchase of books.  

“The library is a place that makes all students feel welcomed and represented in their collections,” says Sarah Smith, Grinnell’s director of outreach programming. “The College has had a long-standing partnership with the school district centered around literacy initiatives, and we are pleased to support this project to allow for new humanities resources in our schools.”    

Preschooler with a book at PTO event
Grinnell-Newburg Preschooler enjoys breakfast and a book from the Connected PTO event in December 2022.

Through the College’s local “Micro-Grants Program,” the Connected PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) received $900 for a Breakfast Book Club event held last December. The event, which has returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, enables an adult to read to student(s) before school, while also providing a healthy breakfast, before they are dismissed for winter break. The funds allowed the purchase of age-appropriate books for Grinnell-Newburg elementary students to take home. 

The Grinnell College Pioneer Bookshop also regularly supports local school libraries. As part of a long-standing tradition, the College provided $3,000 to the Grinnell High School and Grinnell Middle School libraries in December. Since 2012, the Pioneer Bookshop has committed to give 10% of December sales (up to $3,000) to the libraries as a way for the College to partner in education and help the libraries add to their current collections. 

"We, at the Pioneer Bookshop, want to support the love of reading by contributing to the Grinnell High School and Middle School libraries," says Cassie Wherry, manager of the Pioneer Bookshop. "We hope to make it a little easier for the librarian to obtain the most popular books that spark the interest of young readers, who will hopefully become readers for life.” 

Grinnell High School Student with Books
Grinnell-Newburg High School Students Jaylen Eitel, Jenna Mintle, Amanda Small, and Gretta Dodd


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