In 2004 I was one of 13 board members who saw urgent early childhood literacy needs and founded the nonprofit organization that became Raising Readers in Story County. We've made impressive strides toward our mission of improving language and literacy development in children from birth to eight years of age and nurturing healthy parent-child relationships. For example, one of our main programs is Reach Out and Read, a national model that promotes early literacy and school readiness. The first year we partnered with 6 local pediatricians. We donated 500 books which they gave to 6-month-olds at their checkups. Our program quickly became popular with both families and healthcare professionals. Now Raising Readers annually provides over 9,000 books that are given county-wide to children ages 6-months to 5 years. The doctors encourage parents to read with their children every day, and parents report on our annual surveys they are reading more at home. In 2009 Story County received the first Bookend County Award from the Reach Out and Read National Center for having 100% of primary care physicians participating in the program. Raising Readers has also developed a unique Books and More program featuring a series of parent education offerings. We train volunteers to help share the curricula with families. Participants have praised these classes, saying they gained confidence in their parenting skills, increased their literacy-related activities, and enhanced bonding with their children. Our third major program area involves partnering with human service agencies, faith communities, and other groups who work directly with families at risk. Raising Readers volunteers visit their sites, read to children, and give families books to take home. We are a cost-effective volunteer-driven organization, and we contract for expertise as needed. Typically, a full 90% of our funds go to directly serve families. Individuals, service groups, corporations, foundations, and grantors invest in Raising Readers in Story County in order to be partners in effectively addressing low literacy in our country. On behalf of our dedicated board and volunteers, I can promise anyone who would consider supporting us that we will stretch every penny and use your donations wisely on proven programs.