Stories of


Enhancing Literacy and Early Grade Reading, Together

May 16, 2023 
By Erika Ritchie
Staff, Greater Green Bay Community Foundation

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, children in our community struggled with reading and literacy. The pandemic only added to those challenges.

Statewide testing for the 2020-2021 school year showed significant drops in reading proficiency. Roughly two-thirds of all students failed to meet 3rd-grade reading proficiency targets. In Brown County, roughly 1 in 4 students, or just 27%, met the mark.

The ability to read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade is a crucial indicator for future academic, social, and economic success. Scores fell for students of all racial backgrounds, but the data clearly shows that Black and Latino students are falling farthest behind.

As a community, we are working to ensure that all youth – as well as adults – have ample opportunities to better the course of their lives, their families’ lives, and their careers through literacy.

The Community Foundation is strategically positioned to shepherd these efforts. We are actively partnering with schools, nonprofits, local leaders, and other philanthropies to promote data-driven solutions, bring together resources, and improve literacy outcomes now and into the future.


Since 2021, the Foundation and its fundholders have invested more than $1.6 million in schools and programs promoting literacy, reading and education in Brown, Kewaunee, and Oconto counties.

These grants are funding important work in areas such as:

Culturally responsive tutoring – Grants to organizations like Literacy Green Bay, Casa Alba Melanie, Community Services Agency (COMSA), and African Heritage, Inc., are providing culturally relevant services to an increasingly diverse community. This includes support to African Heritage, Inc. to help launch the Academy of Black Excellence (ABLE) in the Green Bay and De Pere school districts to close equity gaps and enhance opportunities for Black students in grades 2-8.

One-on-one reading support – Programs like Reading Coaches for Kids through the Volunteer Center of Brown County provide one-on-one reading support to K-5 students in Brown County. A 2023 grant is helping to grow its base of over 100 volunteers and provide them with additional tools for consistent visits to 22 local schools. This specialized, school-based support is taking some of the pressure off teachers and parents.

Student engagement initiatives – A 2022 School Spirit Educational Endowment grant is helping teachers at Webster Elementary engage students in reading and writing with the addition of a student-run post office. The project launched in March 2023 to turn the school into a true community where students write, send, and deliver mail to improve literacy skills in a fun and engaging way.

Reading in Rural Communities – In Kewaunee County, 13.5% of adults are at or below the lowest literacy level. Research shows children of low-literacy parents are 72% more likely to have low literacy themselves. Grants to organizations like Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County and Centro de Actividades y Servicios Altruistas are helping bilingual and Spanish-speaking adults and children access tutoring to enhance literacy and language skills for the benefit of the entire family.


Grants provide the resources needed for immediate, short-term action. Investments in collective impact initiatives like Achieve Brown County provide the data and tools necessary to catalyze innovative, community-wide solutions for lasting impact.

Achieve Brown County’s Reading for the Future Strategy team is working to create a long-term vision and framework to improve 3rd grade reading outcomes in Brown County. The work reflects our community’s commitment to addressing inequities with solutions that are data-driven and incorporate diverse perspectives and experiences from throughout our community.

“The bigger picture is how do we create that long-term institutional change – whether that’s based in curriculum, based in policy, or based in a longer-term approach,” said Achieve Brown County Executive Director Sarah Beckman.

Few communities have systems for collaborative action in place the way ours does. By working together with Achieve Brown County and other organizations throughout Northeastern Wisconsin, we are accomplishing much more than could be accomplished alone.

These are just a few examples of the good work that is happening in tandem with support in other areas like basic needs, safe and stable housing, mental health, and general education initiatives – all of which are vital to ensuring a more equitable community where all children can thrive.

Good grows here when we work together.

If you are passionate about education and want to support local efforts to enhance student success, a Field of Interest Fund may be the right fit to help you achieve your philanthropic goals. Learn more about our work and all the options available to strengthen the collective progress of our community – together.


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