TALLAHASSEE, Fla., September 12, 2012 – Before third grade a child learns to read. By fourth grade they read to learn. A child’s reading skills in elementary school can dramatically influence the probability of high school graduation, so an early investment in a child during the elementary years is critically important.
Power of the Purse, a women’s leadership initiative of United Way of the Big Bend, launched a new early literacy program this year, ReadingPals. The goal was to recruit 175 ReadingPal volunteers to read one-on-one with a student in kindergarten, first or second grade. The vision of this initiative is to move the needle on early literacy in our community and get kids reading on grade level by the time they enter third grade. Year one of the ReadingPals initiative focuses on ten selected elementary schools in Leon County with the possibility of expanding in future years.
Over the past several months, community volunteers have signed up for the ReadingPals program, have been trained, and have completed a Level 2 background and fingerprinting check with the Leon County School System. United Way of the Big Bend blew past the 175 volunteer goal and recruited 31 middle and high school ReadingPal volunteers for the Super Why Summer Reading Camps this past summer, and an additional 191 ReadingPal volunteers for the 2012-2013 school year for a total of 222 ReadingPals in its first year! This is an amazing result.
“I continue to be amazed by our community and the volunteers who have signed up by the hundreds because they have a passion for helping our young children. The collaboration between United Way of the Big Bend and Leon County Schools has been unprecedented. I am excited to see how far this initiative will go and the impact it will have for our community,” said Brooke Hallock, Chair of Power of the Purse.
The ReadingPals initiative completed its first day of the 25 week program yesterday and are already starting to see some early successes. “Today was just wonderful at Apalachee Tapestry Magnet School of the Arts,” said Anne Priddy, a ReadingPal volunteer. “I love doing this! United Way of the Big Bend should be very proud of their hard work bringing this initiative to fruition. It will certainly pay off in the future for these kids and will enrich our lives as ReadingPal volunteers as well.”
ReadingPals Details Include
• Volunteers matched one-to-one with a child in kindergarten, first or second grade
• Read to a child one hour per week for 25 weeks (September, 2012 – April, 2013)
• Children receive a book every week to help them begin their own at-home library
• Program takes place at ten Title 1 Schools in Leon County
• Weekly curriculum is tailored to children’s reading needs
• Volunteers received a three hour training from United Way of the Big Bend, Leon County Schools, and Big Brothers Big Sisters
Participating Schools (all volunteer times are from 4:30-5:30pm):
1. Apalachee Elementary School
2. Astoria Park Elementary School
3. Bond Elementary School
4. Hartsfield Elementary School
5. Oak Ridge Elementary School
6. Pineview Elementary School
7. Riley Elementary School
8. Ruediger Elementary School
9. Sabal Palm Elementary School
10. Woodville Elementary School