UW-Green Bay Literacy Initiative

Dear UW-Green Bay Faculty and Staff,

While attending the recent Brown County Reading Success Summit, I was deeply moved and concerned by the following data:

  • During the 2016-2017 school year, 41% of Brown County students were reading at a proficient level.
  • The most recent 2020-2021 shows a 14% decrease in reading proficiency, with only 27% of Brown County students meeting 3rd-grade reading proficiency targets.
  • Reading proficiency scores in Brown County also reveal massive equity gaps between children of marginalized populations and white students. These range from 16% – 31.3%, with the largest gap existing between Latinx and white students.

Our institutional priorities include supporting student success for all students, making education more inclusive, and being community-engaged to solve problems for our region.  They also include creating equity in educational opportunity by reducing the gap in educational attainment for white and non-white students and aspiring to be a Hispanic Serving Institution.  We pride ourselves on being a resource in the region for life-long learning.

Therefore, we must act to help solve an issue that will undoubtedly affect UW-Green Bay in the future and also impact the economic capacity and equity of our region for generations to come.  We must be part of the solution to solve this problem and be a force for the common good to engage and support improved literacy rates in the region we serve.

As a first step in this work, beginning next semester, I am imploring all faculty and staff to use flexible hours to volunteer to read to students in 1st-3rd grade.  If all faculty, students, and staff at UW-Green Bay volunteered to read for 4 hours to a child, we would be able to provide over 40,000 hours of reading time to kids from Sheboygan all the way to Marinette.

In order to best prepare those interested in volunteering to support students’ literacy skills, Dr. Cory Mathieu and Dr. Samantha Meister – experts in language and literacy education – are developing a reading tutor training (online, self-paced). A link to register for the training through our Division of Continuing Education and Community Engagement will be shared early in the spring semester along with links to schools and districts that want to partner with us in this endeavor.

I realize that this is a first of many steps to solving this systemic problem. Our faculty experts are continuing to consider other action steps to address the ongoing literacy crisis in our community.  Please join me in the new year with this initiative to increase the literacy rates of our region, help ensure a more equitable future for all children, and show the value of what happens when a university engages with the community in a mission to work toward the common good.  More soon.