West Des Moines, Iowa – March 2, 2021–Read Across Iowa kicked off with dozens of events around the state and a live, virtual read aloud of the My Family’s Soybean Farm by the author, Katie Oltoff. Read Across Iowa is a month-long celebration of the joys of reading to students of all ages making all children feel valued and welcomed. This agriculturally themed Read Across Iowa event and the accompanying resources feature books and materials about agriculture that will appeal to all readers.

To help educators and parents celebrate, more than 850 packets of books were distributed.  The kit included books like My Family's Soybean Farm, Full of Beans: Henry Ford Grows a Car, Carlos and the Cornfield, Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic, and Las calabacitas de Zora (Zora's Zucchini). The kit also included read aloud tips, parent tips, and more. The books and materials are estimated to impact more than 10,000 Iowa students. Research shows that reading to children and having books in the home is one of the strongest predictors of school success. Children who read and listen to books hear a greater variety of words - up to 50% more - leading to a better vocabulary than those who watch media.

“I truly appreciate the books and the topic,” said Kristi Tjelle Waller of Council Bluffs Community School District. “I grew up with many farmers in my family and my father managed grain elevators across Iowa. I am so excited to share these with my students during March.”

As a part of the program, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offices and local Agriculture in the Classroom coordinators have been assisting local educators in participating in the celebrations. As one example, ISU Extension and Outreach Clay County and Clay County Farm Bureau organized a StoryWalk in Spencer, Iowa. A StoryWalk is a fun, physically-distanced activity that places a children’s story—a deconstructed book, page by page—along a walking route in the community. Along the way, families will engage in literacy activities while learning about the subject of the book. Cedar Co. and Dubuque Co. will also be hosting StoryWalk events. Counties all over the state are hosting read alouds.

Other activities for the month of celebrations will include live, virtual read alouds from some of the books’ authors. Katherine Pryor will read her book on March 10, and Peggy Thomas will read her book on March 23rd, which is also National Ag Day.  In the Loess Hills region of the state more than 20 classrooms have signed up to have a farmer come in and read one of the books to their class. The students will be able to ask questions and learn more about agriculture.

“Thank you very much for the Read Across Iowa kit,” said Amy Decker of Aquin Catholic Elementary.  “It is going to be a great way for me to incorporate agriculture into my classroom all month long.”

Read Across Iowa is organized as a collaborative effort between the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa 4-H Youth Development, and the Iowa State Education Association. Some books and materials were provided by donations and grants from Dollar General, GROWMARK, the National Education Association, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and other partners of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.

To learn more about this program and how you can get involved, visit IowaAgLiteracy.org.

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About the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation: IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa’s students about agriculture.  The mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture.  Iowa is a leading producer of agricultural products that are essential to feed a growing world population, estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.  IALF believes it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives.  Through Agriculture in the Classroom efforts IALF engages with teachers and students.  IALF is supported by a number of agricultural stakeholders, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, CHS Foundation, Corteva Agriscience, Farm Credit Services of America, GROWMARK, the Iowa Beef Industry Council, and Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.  For more information visit IALF online at www.IowaAgLiteracy.org, on Facebook, and Twitter.

About Iowa 4-H Youth Development: Iowa 4-H Youth Development is the premier youth development program of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Providing research-based education to K-12 youth, Iowa 4-H focuses on Healthy Living, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Leadership and Civic Engagement, and Communication and the Arts. Iowa 4-H builds upon more than a century of experience in positive youth development. Nearly 100,000 youth participate annually in Iowa 4-H. For more information, please visit the Iowa 4-H website at www.extension.iastate.edu/4h.

About the Iowa State Education Association: The ISEA represents preK-12 educators, education support professionals, community college faculty, Area Education Agency professionals, retired educators, and aspiring educators with contracts covering more than 50,000 employees. We promote quality public education by placing students at the center of everything we do while advocating for education professionals. For more information visit ISEA online at www.ISEA.org