HILLSBORO, Wis. - Good reading skills can lead to success in school. Teachers will tell you that's why it's important to help kids develop a love of reading.
An initiative led by an organization called Hillsboro C.A.R.E.S. is trying to do just that. C.A.R.E.S. is an acronym for "Community Advocates for Reading, Enrichment and Success."
The story behind how this organization began is quite a tale, and it starts with Jacqui Davison’s passion for reading.
“I'm a farmer with a teaching background,” Davison said.
Her teaching degree just might be the driving force behind some of this Hillsboro dairy farmer’s utterly unbelievable ideas.
“When I have a new crazy idea, it usually starts with, ‘Okay. So here's how I want to change the world today,’” Davison said.
Her big ideas revolve around showing parents of young children the importance of reading, and, ironically, her ideas all started with a book.
“When I read the Read Aloud Handbook, I was excited and appauled at the same time,” Davison said. “Very scared for our future that there's so many kids that really struggle in life because of their literacy.”
So Jacqui got to work.
“It was a moment of -- I'm not going to wait for my kids to grow up and do all the things that I want to do in life,” Davison said. “I'm going to start them now, because I want my kids to see that I want to change the world.”
She could have written a novel with all of her ideas, but started by presenting a few of them to a group of teachers and community members. Together they formed an organization called Hillsboro C.A.R.E.S. and started booking projects, like 'Local Lit.'
“Our first program was local lit,” Davison said. “And this year is its third year running.”
“The students have a little card,” said the Principal of Hillsboro Elementary Missy Herek. “It is sponsored by the area community businesses.”
“When children read a certain number of books, they get to bring their coupon in and they get a pancake, said Holvy’s Café co-owner Sandra Holverson, a chocolate chip pancake or a plain pancake, for free.”
Other reading reward options include one hour of swimming at the local hotel, free nachos at a local restaurant or free ice cream from the local grocery store.
Anything for reading,” said Hillsboro County Market Store Manager Mindy Campbell. “I love it!”
Campbell said taking part in this community-wide effort was a no-brainer.
“Usually with Jacqui you go, ‘Yeah. Let's do it!” Campbell said.
“No one has turned us down, which is dangerous, because then I just keep asking because I have more ideas,” Davison said.
'Restaurant Readers' is one of them.
“It gives the kids something to do while they wait for their chocolate chip pancakes,” Holverson said.
These laminated books can be found at three restaurants in town.
“It keeps kids doing something productive because they're reading with their parents,” Davison said.
So while they are enjoying their tasty reward for all of their hard work, these school-aged kids start earning minutes toward their next reward.
“If an entire classroom is reading more books than all the other classrooms, Bubba gets to come to school,” Davison said.
The tale of the family farm dog is the next chapter of this community-wide story.
“Bubba's going to hang out during their reading time and wander around the room and be petted,” Davison said.
“We know the importance of having our students being independent, life-long learners by 3rd grade, because after 3rd grade, we know that the research shows the further and further they get behind if they are reluctant readers,” Herek said.
“If we don't get kids to read at a young age, what happens to our community?” Davison asked. “What happens to the future of our society?”
The potential answers to these questions gives Jacqui the motivation to share her novel ideas – one book at a time.
“Passion runs deep for farming, for books and for trying to make a positive impact, Davison said.
I mean we are starting small with our community, but who's to say it can't get bigger. Why can't it?”
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