Women United Donors, Agency Partners Help Bridge the Literacy Gap


Just this spring, Women United teamed up with media and community partners to shine a spotlight on the creative minds who are pioneering new ideas to improve literacy for our youngest Quad Citizens and fun innovative solutions.

Many neighbors tuned in during the primetime event, The Pitch*, and voted for their favorite program idea to get kids on the path to future success. But, when Christina Conklin of Moline Public Library and Misi Birdsall of Project NOW, Inc., won the top prize of $40,000 for their collaborative pitch, they wasted no time before connecting with underserved children.

I had the privilege to sit down with Misi Birdsall, Head Start Director at Project NOW, to discuss how things are going with her Bridging Literacy in the Quad Cities program.

Understanding the Underlying Issues

Misi and Christina identified two hurdles for local families: Non-English-speaking families with 3- to 5-year-old children need access to more literacy materials in their home and communities to increase exposure to literacy and language. And, Latinx, Black and immigrant families face unique barriers to utilizing library services.

Thanks to Women United funding, Misi and Christina were able to roll out their plan to improve the literacy experiences for immigrant and Latinx families. Through Bridging Literacy in the Quad Cities the pair have been reaching out to targeted communities with a mobile literacy experience and presenting culturally inclusive early literacy programming to build relationships, share the love of reading and inform families of the importance of early literacy and library services.

Their first event was at Esperanza Center in Moline, where they had both English and Spanish books, a Spanish-speaking story time and other fun games. Next, they went to Christ the King Church in Moline, where there is a sizeable French-speaking immigrant community. Finally, they wrapped up the summer with an event at Stephens Park in Moline. This event brought 75+ kids and their parents who enjoyed story time, science activities and an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog with the Moline Police Department.

The first year ended as a huge success, and they have many plans for 2022.

Driving Long-term Solutions

All of this was made possible thanks to your support. Generous Women United members and supporters just like you made $100,000 available to turn Bridging Literacy in the Quad Cities and similarly inspired projects from idea into an action.

Please consider making a one-time or recurring gift to fund solutions for families and our young learners all year-round through our Born Learning Academies, Start Smart texts and other resources for parents.

To learn more about Women United, please visit

Sincere thanks,
Ashley Hicks
Women United Director

* Special thanks to The Pitch event’s generous presenting event partners: KWQC TV6 NewsQuad-City TimesThe Dispatch / Rock Island Argus and Women United, with program support from the Regional Development Authority. Thank you to event host River Music Experience.

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