- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Hundreds of volunteers are needed to read with children once school starts this fall, and Des Moines Public Schools is going door to door to find them.

This month, volunteers passed out fliers and talked with homeowners in an effort to recruit community members to work with students before, during or after school.

“We know that’s a pivotal point for our kids, where there’s a point where you learn to read and a point where you read to learn,” said Cindy Elsbernd, a Des Moines school board member.

The canvassing expects to reach 10,000 homes by the end of the month, said Connie Boesen, a school board member who helped organize the outreach, The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/298ijxt ) reports.

The push comes as schools prepare for a state law aimed at improve reading proficiency. Legislation will require students who are below grade level to repeat third grade or attend an intensive summer reading program before moving on to fourth grade.

Gov. Terry Branstad recently signed a one-year delay this summer as part of the education appropriations legislation. It will begin in 2018, giving schools and students more time to prepare.

That includes efforts such as the United Way of Central Iowa’s Read to Succeed program, which pairs volunteers with schools in Dallas, Polk and Warren counties.

“We’re trying to level the playing field for our students,” said Barb Bremner, executive director of Polk County Early Childhood Iowa.

Temperatures rose into the 90s on Saturday as the volunteer group knocked on doors. A handful of homeowners offered to share pamphlets at work or signed up for an email list.

“Hey, it’s better than pollsters,” joked Paul Rathjen, an intern architect at Shive-Hattery, after hearing about the volunteer outreach effort. “It’s a good idea.”

Nathan Peterson, a bartender at Trostel’s Dish, agreed.

“The one-on-one time is important,” he said. “It’s a good outreach.”

A light rain began to fall as the humidity broke, and volunteers made their way back to their cars.

“I think it’s important as a community that we all take a role in supporting our kids,” Kelli Soyer said before passing out fliers.

Louisa Dykstra, also part of the canvass, nodded. “I want to live in a community where everybody can read.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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