About Us

Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read

Southwest Iowa Raise Me to Read supports literacy and early learning for every child across Pottawattamie County!

Our Story

Raise Me to Read is a local community-based initiative that supports literacy and early learning for every child across Pottawattamie County.

 

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 a 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 that would later be known as Raise Me to Read was adopted by the Iowa West Foundation and United Way of the Midlands in 2015. This move allowed Raise Me to Read to grow from a solely school based program to a community lead initiative.

Our three goals are to engage and educate the community on the importance of reading and early childhood literacy from birth to age five, to have students enter kindergarten ready to learn and to have all students read proficiently by third grade.

Unfortunately, 30.6% of third-graders in Pottawattamie County are not proficient in reading.  There are seven workgroups that evolved out of a community planning session to develop and implement the strategies of the Raise Me to Read plan in order to achieve those goals. This work involves the healthy industry, business and faith communities, and most importantly parents and caregivers of our children. Each of these groups involved will be bringing their own resources and areas of expertise in order to be successful.

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 Mission

Working together to support literacy and early learning for every child across Pottawattamie County, beginning in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Raise Me to Read campaign assists community partners in developing and implementing the programs and activities that will enable our county’s children to live in a literacy‐rich environment. By so doing, Raise Me to Read contributes to interrupting the cycle of childhood and generational poverty.

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.

FAMILY, Inc.

Leadership

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

Phone

(712) 318-1839

Address

3501 Harry Langdon Blvd., Ste. 150

Council Bluffs, IA 51503

Email

semerine@familyia.org

Social Media

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Partners

FAMILY, Inc.
Iowa West Foundation Logo