Kansas Health Foundation fights to improve literacy across state

DODGE CITY, Kan. (KWCH) Six languages under one roof presents a unique challenge and opportunity in Dodge City schools. In Kansas, this is far from an isolated incident, but the challenge is especially evident in southwest Kansas districts like Doge City.

Toward the effort to rise up and meet needs of children learning to read, students in southwest Kansas inspired a new bilingual children's book, "Just like you, Igual que tu." The book is the result of research the the Kansas Health Foundation, discovering that more than 60 percent of fourth-grade students in Kansas schools do not pass their reading exams.

"We found that very alarming," says Monique Garcia with the Kansas Health Foundation. "Those students are four times as likely to not graduate from high school, and end up in jail or poverty."

Now the Kansas Health Foundation is fighting back. Its mission: to start literacy young, through a multi-language approach.

"The duo language is such an important part of literacy, so we are not using that as a barrier, but actually an opportunity," Garcia says.

Ten thousand copies of "Just like you, Igual que tu" will be distributed this week in southwest Kansas, primarily in the communities of Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal. The Kansas Health Foundation hopes its efforts create a positive change in Kansas schools.

"In the long run, it helps them become literate eventually," says Bianca Alvarez, family and community specialist with Dodge City Public Schools. "If they have the language, a strong language background, eventually, it's going to help them."