Monday Update: Read Across Iowa

Do you ever wonder what’s in your lunchbox? You, along with youth throughout the state, can find out all through March during Read Across Iowa. This is the third year that ISU Extension and Outreach has supported this program. It celebrates the joys of reading to youth of all ages and supports positive youth development by building literacy and knowledge about STEM, agriculture, healthy living, and more. Extension literacy specialist Connie Beecher and Sara Nelson, director of the NASA Iowa Space Grant Consortium, lead our partnership with the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. The planning team includes 4-H staff, a teacher/farmer from Keokuk County, and agriculture educators. Did you know?

  • Each year the program offers a diverse set of books that feature agriculture and how it supports our lives. New this year, extension professionals read the book “How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?” to CY. Watch the videos to hear the story in English and Spanish.
  • One thousand Read Across Iowa toolkits were delivered to teachers, county extension offices, libraries, and after-school programs in February. The books are funded by a variety of grants and support from the Office of the Vice President for Extension and Outreach, 4-H, and the College of Human Sciences. Dean Laura Jolly provided funds to purchase the Spanish language version of “How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?” this year.
  • Read Across Iowa materials are research-based and provide ways to read with children, facts about reading, activities for each book, games, and ideas for events and educational programing. See MyExtension to access the materials.
  • Check the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation’s website for upcoming Read Across Iowa virtual events.

According to My Data, in 2022 ISU Extension and Outreach and the Read Across Iowa team reached 2,019 direct youth contacts and 56,247 indirect contacts. We encourage everyone to use these resources to educate, engage, and inspire your community to read aloud with children for an even greater impact in 2023.

Virtual education tech tip: Using Microsoft Outlook for efficiency

Kris Baldwin, educational technology resources specialist, offers this update.

Virtual education empowers us to use technology to share content in ways that may not be possible with in-person learning – and also saves on travel costs. We can automate some processes in virtual education to take less time and provide more engaging and individualized learning experiences. We can use similar technology features to increase productivity and give ourselves more time for other work. For example, Bonnie Dalager, 4-H educational resources development specialist, offers the following strategies for using Microsoft Outlook to be more efficient while maintaining strong lines of communication with your stakeholders.

  • Are there emails you write repeatedly? Maybe a weekly report to councils, responses to common questions, or your zoom room information? Try using quick parts in Outlook to create a template.
  • Do you need time to focus on an important project, but your incoming emails are distracting? Click on the Send/Receive tab and select Work Offline to temporarily keep emails from filling your Inbox.
  • Are there steps to your workflow like moving, categorizing, or marking email messages that you would like to automate? Set up rules so Outlook can organize your messages for you.

More notes

  • In honor of Women’s History Month, here’s an important piece of Iowa farm women’s history. This year Annie’s Project celebrates 20 years of empowering women in agriculture across the nation. In Iowa, 128 Annie’s Project courses have reached 2,200 women. For example, read Jean Driscoll’s story.
  • The National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) National Meeting will be held this year in Des Moines, August 13-17. Applications may be submitted for oral presentations, poster presentations, scholarships, and communication and program awards. The submission deadline for all categories is March 15 and applications must be submitted online via the NACAA website. For more information, contact a member of the planning committee: Denise Schwab,; Ryan Drollette,; Virgil Schmitt,; Jennifer Bentley,; Fred Hall,; or Kapil Arora,
  • Researchers at the National Farm Medicine Center and The Ohio State University are conducting an online survey of farmers and ranchers who are raising children ages 0-18. The survey asks about their families’ experiences of caring for children while also working on and off the farm/ranch. The survey is open to part-time and full-time farmers, ranchers, and their partners operating in rural, urban, or suburban areas. The survey will close on March 17. I encourage you to share the survey link with farm families you serve.

I look forward to seeing you at our ISU Extension and Outreach Awards Ceremony and Annual Conference!