About Us

Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read

Our Story

Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read is a literacy initiative that aims to improve third grade reading proficiencies through strategic partnership and awareness campaigns. 

The initiative focuses on three key areas proven to positively impact grade-level reading by the end of third grade —school readiness, school attendance, and summer learning.

Initially started as part of the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading by the Council Bluffs Community School District and the Chamber of Commerce in 2012, the campaign later known as Raise Me to Read was adopted by FAMILY, Inc. in 2015 with the support of Iowa West Foundation and United Way of the Midlands. This move allowed Raise Me to Read to grow from a solely school-based program to a community lead initiative. 

Our goals are to engage and educate our community on the importance of reading and early childhood literacy starting at birth, to have students enter kindergarten ready to learn, and to have all students reading proficiently by third grade. Unfortunately, 30.6% of third graders in Pottawattamie County are not proficient in reading.  

In 2019 a community planning session was held to develop and implement the strategies, goals, and mission of Raise Me to Read. This plan brings together leaders in education, health, faith, and business to build a literacy-rich community where children and families thrive

The Raise Me to Read campaign will assist the community partners in developing and implementing the programs and activities that will enable our children to reach this goal.

Our Backbone

FAMILY, Inc. is the backbone of Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read

FAMILY, Inc. provides public health and family support services to women, children and families in Pottawattamie and Mills Counties. It is FAMILY’s primary goal to assist parents in becoming their child’s first and most influential teacher through education, empowerment, and wellness. With offices located in Council Bluffs and Walnut, Iowa the agency serves both urban and rural communities. These services are administered in homes, shelters, and community settings. Through its various programs, FAMILY works to ensure families have access to the services and support they need to allow their children to enter school healthy, safe and ready to learn.



Samantha Emerine

Samantha Emerine

Director of Literacy Initiatives

Sam is a native Iowan, born and raised on the west end of Council Bluffs, who blossomed from struggling reader to literacy advocate. Sam graduated from UNO with a degree in Communications then accepted a part-time position at the Omaha Public Library, never realizing that this initially temporary position would turn into her career and her passion. She fostered her love for promoting reading and literacy as she worked her way up in the Omaha Public Library, where she was found by FAMILY, Inc. Now Sam is the Director of Raise Me to Read where this formerly struggling reader has put her talent and passion to work to help children enduring the same struggles improve their literacy skills and learn to love books and reading.

Kimberly Kolakowski, MS

Kimberly Kolakowski, MS

FAMILY, Inc. Executive Director

Kimberly Kolakowski is the Executive Director for FAMILY, Inc. having more than 20 years of experience serving children and families, 16 of these have been dedicated to the Southwest Iowa Community. During her time at FAMILY, Inc. she lead the organization through tremendous amounts of growth, including the addition of the Early Head Start program in 2019. Kimberly’s unwavering commitment to our community can be seen not only though her work but also through her certified therapy dog, Daisy Mae Sunshine, with whom she visits care centers, schools, and hospitals bringing joy and smiles to everyone they meet.

Contact Us


(712) 318-1839


3501 Harry Langdon Blvd., Ste. 150

Council Bluffs, IA 51503



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