With the help of a coalition of community partners, First Lady Mead launched Eat. Read. Grow., a Cheyenne-based program that encourages families to spend time together over meals and to read together at home, both activities that experts say boost children’s self-confidence by strengthening the parent-child bond and support their earliest educational experiences by cultivating intellectual curiosity and literacy skills. And since children who read proficiently at grade level by third grade are far less likely to drop out of high school than kids who don’t, encouraging early literacy is key to a child’s success in school and in life.

The concept and events are simple. A dinner is hosted for families. The families spend quality time together over the meal, enjoy a few stories read by “celebrity” readers, learn about community services from which they may benefit, and go home with an age-appropriate book for each of their children and a bag of fresh groceries and pantry supplies.

Since its launch in 2013, the program has spread to ten communities statewide.