Out-of-towner helps boost Read Up! Madison Fund

March 27, 2017 GMT

Jeanne Connors of Shawano might not seem like an obvious choice to contribute to the Read Up! Madison Fund, a campaign designed to get more books into the hands of more at-risk kids during summer school.

But the 76-year-old Connors gave money to the fund last week, anyway, despite the fact she lives 147 miles northeast of Madison.

Maybe the desire to help kids learn to read was driven by Connors’ educational background. She’s got a PhD from UW-Madison in cultural anthropology, so she knows a little something about human behavior and development.

More likely, though, it was her life experience and her four granddaughters that prompted the generosity from Connors.

“My granddaughters were all raised in homes that were full of books,” she said. “And that puts a child light years ahead of those who are in homes with no books.”

Giving kids with few or no books in their homes a chance to become better readers — and thus vastly increasing their likelihood of finding a path to success — is what the Read Up! Madison Fund is all about.

Each participating child in the Madison School District’s summer reading program gets to take home and keep five new books as part of the program. In some cases, it’s the first book the child has ever owned.

Read Up! is a collaborative effort involving the school district and its summer recreation program, along with the United Way of Dane County, the Madison Public Library and the Madison Reading Project. The program also engages families and helps teach parents and siblings about good reading habits.

“It’s such a great program,” said Connors, who still has ties to Madison through her children and grandchildren. “I really applaud the people who are doing it.”

Connors retired a dozen years ago as an active researcher working on the Menominee Indian Reservation near Shawano, but still teaches anthropology and other classes for undergraduates and grad students online.

“So much for retiring,” she said, joking.

Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of more than 400 contributors so far, the Read Up! Madison Fund continues to steam along. We’re also very pleased to report that the wonderful challenge grant of $5,000 put forth two weeks ago by Jane Doughty and husband David Wood has been reached — and well surpassed by now. That means the Madison couple will soon be adding $5,000 to the current total of just over $52,000.

A total of 88 donors contributed a total of $8,585 to the campaign in the past week. All donations, large and small, are welcome, especially as the fundraising efforts enter the final two weeks. The campaign concludes Saturday, April 8.

The Read Up! program has proven itself a winner over several years now, as high percentages of kids involved have maintained or even improved their reading skills over the summer months when those skills typically erode.

If you want to play a direct role in helping stop the summer slide, make a donation to the Read Up! Madison Fund.