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Rochester's Reading Center awarded $1.5 million in state funding

Rochester's Reading Center awarded $1.5 million in state funding

The Reading Center in Rochester is looking toward the next chapter following the State Legislature's approval of a bonding bill that includes $1.5 million in funding for a new building.

The bipartisan provision, authored by Sen. Carla Nelson and Rep. Nels Pierson, both Republicans from Rochester, was part of a $1 billion bonding bill signed into law this week by Gov. Mark Dayton.

The state support will finance half the cost of a new $3 million building, which the organization hopes to break ground on by the end of 2018. The Reading Center, also known as the Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota, is a nonprofit that works with students who are struggling to learn to read.  

After failing to secure state funding a year ago, executive director Cindy Russell told us Wednesday she is both grateful and surprised by the bipartisan effort to advance the spending provision.

Sen. Nelson with Maria Presa, whose brother is dyslexic, at the Dyslexia Day Rally 2017 / Courtesy the Reading Center

Sen. Nelson with Maria Presa, whose brother is dyslexic, at the Dyslexia Day Rally 2017 / Courtesy the Reading Center

"Anyone who's had a child with dyslexia understands the challenges and roadblocks they face every day," said Russell. "They're feeling dumb, they're feeling defeated. When a parent finds a place like this, with specialized instruction, and it works so well, and the light bulb goes off — that's what it's all about."

Since 1951, the Reading Center has served more than 9,000 students and 1,700 teachers directly. Additionally, through the use of technology, the center in recent years has been able to expand its reach across the region. In just the last four years, it has impacted students and teachers in 46 Minnesota counties and nine states.

However, the organization's needs have surpassed its current capacity. With just 3,000 square feet of space, the Reading Center's building is inadequate for programming and training needs. The location is so tight on space that oftentimes key staff can't be in the building at the same time, Russell said.

While the exact location has not been determined, Russell said the new building will be located within Olmsted County, and more than likely in Rochester. Plans call for the Reading Room to triple its amount of tutoring rooms, from three to nine.

The organization will need to raise 75 percent of funding before breaking ground on the building. It is now in the midst of a $3.5 million capital campaign, $500,000 of which will go toward programming with the remainder for construction. (The $1.5 million state provision counts toward the goal.)

Russell said some donors were waiting to commit to the project until after the Legislature made its decision. Now, with state funding in place, she is optimistic that her organization can build on the nearly half-million dollars that has already been pledged.

“State bonding funds act like a match, so that the Reading Center needs to raise only $1.5 million more to complete a new facility to meet our growing program needs," she added.

Dyslexia affects as many as one in five people, the equivalent of 135,000 school aged children in Minnesota. 

More information on the Reading Center can be found here.

Cover photo courtesy the Reading Center

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