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Jennifer Costley, director of the Pendleton Public Library, and one of the signs installed for the inaugural Story Walk at Community Park in Pendleton, a joint venture between the library and Pendleton Parks & Recreation.

PENDLETON — Jennifer Costley, the Pendleton Public Library director, is one of 22 librarians chosen to participate in the Berea College Rural Library Fellowship, a 24-month initiative aimed at increasing the outcomes of third grade reading scores in rural communities.

There is no shortage of studies demonstrating that reading at grade level by the end of third grade is a critical milestone. Failing to meet that milestone results in decreased opportunities to attend college, an increased probability of failing to graduate high school, and a lower income potential in the future. Perhaps the most disturbing statistic is that, according to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a fourth grade level.

Libraries recognize this is a problem they are uniquely equipped to help solve, and as a result the Rural Library Fellowship has been piloted on a small scale, and is now ready to launch nationally. The two-year project will begin with a year of education, extensive training, peer-to-peer engagement and coaching for Costley.

At the completion of year one, the 22 library fellows will move into the action portion of the fellowship, connecting with schools, local government and neighboring libraries to ensure that they work collaboratively in an effort to improve third grade reading scores.

A grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services and Save the Children funds the inaugural fellowship.

For Costley this is an opportunity to make an impact on a national scale while ensuring that Pendleton students are the first to see this work in action. For more information, contact Costley at jennifer.costley@ci.pendleton.or.us or 541-966-0386.

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Contact community writer Tammy Malgesini at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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