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Grade Level Reading Week Conference
August 21, 2018 | Laura Columbus

As one of the leaders in the fight for literacy in our community, Laura Columbus, UWECI Senior Coordinator of Education Initiatives, recently attended the Grade Level Reading Week conference in Philadelphia. Hear her takeaways from a week surrounded by fellow literacy advocates across the nation.

Imagine 753 people who share a passion for helping children succeed all coming together under one roof to share best practices, troubleshoot challenges, and celebrate successes. This was the scene in Philadelphia July 23-27, 2018, where I networked with and learned from more than 300 other communities and experts.

Grade Level Reading Week included three separate conference tracts:

  • The Funder’s Huddle (which is much more exciting than it sounds)
  • The State and Community Lead Conference
  • The Institutes [focused on responding to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)]

My highlights from the week were:

  1. Nadine Burke-Harris’s passionate key-note speech about the vital role pediatricians can play in identifying and helping mitigate ACEs. During her speech, she emphasized the opportunity for pediatricians to help kids become resilient. Only 11% of primary care pediatricians registered with the American Academy of Pediatrics are familiar with ACEs research, and only 4% are actively screening for ACEs in their patients.
  1. Attendees from Massachusetts and Florida shared strategies from their summer reading program. Both communities emphasized the data needed to measure the impact of the work we all are doing. Data agreements with school districts, like Reading into Success’ agreement with the Cedar Rapids and College Community School Districts, provide insight into children’s reading scores at summer’s start and end.
  1. A personal highlight was hearing Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha speak about her new book, What the Eyes Can’t See. A fearless pediatrician, Dr. Mona fought for the health of “her” children by digging for, validating, and exposing the data that brought the Flint, MI water crisis to light. Her work brings to life the belief that all children are “Our Children.” As such, it is up to all of us to fight for their health and education.

I came home from the week-long conference with more than 13 ideas to follow-up on, strategies to share with partners, and practices to research. In the coming months, I’ll be reaching out to communities across the country to learn more about what is working for them and how we might adapt their work to support our children right here in East Central Iowa.