Shawnee County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Honored Again as Pacesetter

National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
Awards 2nd Pacesetter to Shawnee County

Collaboration rewarded
Second Pacesetter in three years

Topeka, Kansas (March 31, 2017) – Shawnee County has been honored for the second time in three years as a Pacesetter by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR). The Campaign was cited for exemplary work in eliminating barriers faced by children from low-income families on the path to becoming proficient readers.

Reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a critical milestone toward high school graduation and career success because it marks the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” According to assessment data, 40-60% of Shawnee County third-graders are not reading on grade level. The high end of that scale represents low socioeconomic status students. Students who have not mastered reading by that time are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle throughout their lives.

“Pacesetter Honors are among the highest awards presented by the GLR Campaign,” said Ralph Smith, the managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. “We are very proud of Shawnee County and the numerous organizations and individuals behind the community for joining forces and working tirelessly to uplift children and families.”

The Shawnee County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was recognized for its strong cross-sector collaboration and efforts in community-wide messaging. Through a network of over 20 community organizations, the campaign works to reduce the gaps in school readiness, chronic absenteeism, and summer learning loss for children in Shawnee County. In 2016 the Campaign focused its efforts on expanding its reach by strengthening existing collaborations, identifying new partnerships and promoting reading and school success through large community events and social media. The Campaign’s first Pacesetter was for progress on student readiness outcomes.

“The Shawnee County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has been working toward a collective impact framework for years as we know cross-sector collaborations are essential in tackling complex social issues,” said Jillian Fisher, Director of Community Impact at the United Way of Greater Topeka and the lead for the local Campaign. “Our partnerships and coalition building have allowed us to ensure our most at-risk children have the tools proven to close the educational achievement gap. As this recognition shows, we are making progress and need to continue to mobilize our community by working with our schools, city agencies, nonprofits, civic leaders and parents.”

The campaign’s first major event was celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday in 2016. AT&T and its service group, the Pioneers, donated more than 11,000 books for children in every Title I elementary school in six districts throughout the county. The week of events included 10 school assemblies with guest readers including legislators, school administrators, TV personalities and the police chief and county sheriff.

To fight summer learning loss, partners created a reading and activity enrichment guide that was distributed to every Summer Food Service Program Site in Shawnee County. The activities in the guide were designed help counteract academic loss that affects many low-income children when they are out of school. The activities helped feeding site volunteers and staff engage kids in fun learning before and after their meals.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading also recognized Campaign partner Topeka Housing Authority (THA) as a “Bright Spot” this year for its exemplary work to transform THA communities into book-rich environments. THA works with United Way and other partners to distribute books at its family literacy event, Book Bingo, where participating families can take home multiple books to keep and build personal home libraries. Visit to learn more about the GLR Campaign’s focus on housing.

Shawnee County participated in Summer Learning Day for the first time in 2016. Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast signed a proclamation highlighting the importance of summer reading. Additionally, Harvesters coordinated with Boom Comics and other partners to provide kids a healthy meal and a day of activities and reading. The Campaign is already planning for even more summer engagement in 2017.

The Campaign held other events throughout the year to help the community reach its initial fundraising goal for launching Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, an initiative led by longtime partners Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library and the United Way of Greater Topeka. United Way worked with Westridge Mall to raise funds and awareness by holding a book drive and allowing space for local celebrities to promote the initiative by reading to children. The Imagination Library initiative will be announced to the public in late April.

To better connect to the community the Campaign created a local Facebook page to talk about the community’s work and the importance of reading.

Membership in the local Campaign continues to grow. Nonprofits, organizations or individuals wishing to join the effort should contact Fisher at 785.228.5114 or



Current members of the Shawnee County Campaign:

  • United Way of Greater Topeka
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Topeka
  • Kansas Action for Children
  • Washburn University
  • Communities in Schools of Mid America
  • Kansas Appleseed
  • Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
  • Topeka Public Schools
  • Harvesters
  • Jayhawk Area Council of Boy Scouts of America
  • Auburn Washburn School District
  • Topeka Housing Authority
  • Shawnee County Parks and Recreation
  • Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Community Action Head Start
  • Parents as Teachers
  • Foster Grandparents

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, the GLR Campaign has grown to include more than 300 communities, representing 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 2,300 local organizations (including 130 United Ways and 250 state and local funders). To learn more, visit and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.