In late February, iQ Credit Union awarded a series of grants to boost libraries and literacy programs to school districts across Southwest Washington as part of its annual “Read with Me” fundraising campaign. Program leaders estimated the program awarded $10,000 across 10 school districts, supporting 34 educators and 5,409 students.
The campaign awards two types of grants: “Read with Me” and literacy grants. The former specifically gives teachers and/or districts gift cards to local toy or bookstores to get students books of their own. This year, gift cards were for Kazoodles Toys in Vancouver; each gift ranged from $100 to $250.
“When children can own a book themselves, when they can keep it and develop a relationship, it really helps to improve reading ability,” said Danette LaChapelle, the chief communications officer at iQ Credit Union.
Literacy grants, which were developed more recently in an effort to expand the campaign’s reach and piggyback off a statewide initiative to raise reading levels, are geared toward older students and allow teachers a little more flexibility in using the funds to boost library and classroom collections or put together a field trip.
In Clark County, 10 grants were awarded in Battle Ground Public Schools, eight in Vancouver Public Schools, three in Woodland Public Schools, three in the Ridgefield School District, two in Evergreen Public Schools, one in the Camas School District, one in the Hockinson School District and one in the Washougal School District.
How to apply for next year
The program started more than 20 years ago in partnership with Educational Service District 112, giving out an estimated 800 books and doing public readings of the popular children’s book “Clifford the Big Red Dog.” Since then, program leaders said, it’s only grown.
“Both of my parents are teachers, so I saw the struggles of educators firsthand — the funding that doesn’t always happen,” said Molly O’Connor, iQ Credit Union education and grant program coordinator. “So this program to me is extra special to be able to give back to educators — not only to enhance classrooms but to give back to students.
“It’s a positive outlet for students, finding what genre they like, using it as reading therapy.”
In the application and evaluation process, teachers are invited to present ideas for how they’d use funding in their classroom or library — the more unique, the more likely to receive a grant. In the past, O’Connor said, some of the most interesting ideas have included a project by a dual language teacher to get iPods for her classroom that students could use to hear recordings of her reading passages and phrases in different languages. O’Connor said the program also weighs applications based on personal motivational factors for students and how widely the project can impact student populations.
Grant applications for the 2023-24 cycle will start in August and close at the end of October. For more information, visit www.iqcu.com/community.