The Gift of Reading Brings Smiles

By: United Way of Big Ben Press Release
By: United Way of Big Ben Press Release

Tallahassee, FL - May 2, 2011 – “The Cat in the Hat,” “Berenstain Bears” and many other childhood books were read and distributed to 300 first-grade classes throughout the Big Bend by 125 volunteers during United Way of the Big Bend’s (UWBB) Days of Doing: READ UNITED effort from April 25 to 29.

In five days, countless smiles and widespread inspiration for books and reading was the result for thousands of first-graders in Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, and Wakulla counties.

“What a fantastic READ UNITED event,” said Heather Mitchell, UWBB vice-president of resource development. “We are grateful to our partners who helped to make this a reality and our volunteers who made it work. UWBB’s Days of Doing was created to promote the spirit and value of volunteerism, increase the awareness of local human-service needs, and demonstrate what people working together for the community's good can accomplish. Reading helps children develop vital language skills, open up new worlds, enrich their lives, and enhance social skills. Days of Doing: READ UNITED was a great opportunity to make a positive impact in the community.”

From the first book being opened for story time to the last book being handed to a first-grader, the READ UNITED effort was widely successful, Mitchell noted. It gave volunteers the opportunity to read a book to a class, foster the love of reading and provide books to get them started on this journey. More than 4,400 books will be distributed, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the exceptional generosity of contributing organizations such as Books-A-Million, Fair Point Communications and Volunteer USA Foundation.

“The children were delighted to have a visitor read to them and broke out in applause when they heard they could take a book home!” said Barbara Mitchell, Pineview Elementary reading coach. “We are thrilled and honored to be part of the READ UNITED effort. You totally made a memorable day for our first-graders. I was in the first grade wing at dismissal and throngs of children came into the hallway, clutching and reading their book, and clamoring to show me which book they had. It was obviously something they treasured and were excited about sharing. It is definitely a united effort to bring literacy to our children in important, engaging and exciting ways. Once again, United Way has seen a need in the community and responded. Thank you for your part in this wonderful project.”

Several first-graders from Sealey Elementary School had their own story to tell about the volunteer’s story-telling and new book:
"After I heard the story, I drew a picture of the cat. Books make me happy." – Taylor
"I am really excited about books. Thank you a lot for my book." – Katherine
"It was a great pleasure to listen to the volunteers read. I always like to hear stories." – Cheyenne
A first-grader from Canopy Oaks Elementary School said, “Thanks for coming and giving me a new book. Maybe when I get older, I can help United Way too."

The following quotes are from volunteers who took the time to read and deliver books:
• "Reading to the kids was so much fun. The kids invited me back. What a rewarding experience. Thank you so much!" – Michelle Powell, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
• “We all read every day, whether on websites or traffic signs. But as Days of Doing volunteers for Leon County and United Way, we know that reading a book is something truly special. One book can make all the difference in a child's life, and we want to be a part of that change.” – Mathieu Cavell, Volunteer Services Coordinator for Leon County
• "I enjoyed it. Myself and another manger from Tri-Eagle went to Havana Elementary School. It was quick and painless but very gratifying." – Mike LePorin, Tri-Eagle Sales
• "It was a great experience and would be happy to volunteer again." – Jeanne Bass, Madison County Planner
• "The teachers were happy to see me, and each class was EXCELLENT. They each were well behaved and a joy to read to. Actually, they made my day. I had a stressful morning but reading to them made it all worth the while. I hope that I can be called on again to help when needed. Thanks for calling me and getting me on my way. I met the assistant principal who was also very pleased with the books. All of the teachers said to thank you for the books, and they were happy to receive them." – Genice Harris, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
• "Reading is, more than ever, an essential tool for life-long learning. I do not believe electronic communication will replace the need to communicate through the written word. Remember, young people can't even use Facebook or Twitter without the ability to read! The profession of architecture is always assumed to communicate through graphics and drawing, however, we find our most common and critical tool to be everyday business reading, writing and comprehension. Reading is essential to our profession! Except for the "Old Man," we are a firm of young family members who all realize the importance of reading to children. Johnson Peterson Architects is delighted to make this effort whenever and wherever we can, to show children the power and passion of reading." – Ivan Johnson, Johnson Peterson Architects
• "Thanks for the opportunity. Had a great time reading “The Blind Men and the Elephant”!" – William Berlow, Leon County Schools

The following quotes are from school principals and teachers:
• "WOW! How awesome to put a book in the hands of every first grader at Hartsfield Elementary School. Promoting the value of reading helps our students see the importance of all the work they are doing in their classrooms. Thanks, UNITED WAY!" – Katherine Solz, Leon County Schools
• “Reading is an important skill, especially at an early age. We appreciate the time and effort extended by the READ UNITED Project to be sure that each of our first graders receives a book and has this important skill modeled for them by a community person. Thank you!” – Sue Kraul, W. T. Moore Elementary School principal
• "I just wanted to thank you for giving our first graders such a treat last Friday at Hawks Rise! United Way is such an important organization and one that I have supported my entire career. Thank you for all you do." – Evy Friend, Hawks Rise Elementary School principal
• "We appreciate this opportunity for our first graders. When students learn to read, they are so excited. Having a book of their very own will encourage this excitement they have about reading and take literacy into their homes." – Kathy Nobles, W. R. Tolar K-8 School principal in Liberty County
• "We are very grateful to the United Way for the gift of books for our young readers. The gift of a book lasts a lifetime. This will only serve to reinforce how proud we are of our beginning readers. – Robert Pearce, Medart Elementary principal in Wakulla County
• "Thank you to United Way for sponsoring the READ UNITED event. Our teachers and students are very excited about hosting our guest reader on Monday and receiving a free book. Promoting literacy is very important for the success of our students. The more they read, the better they understand a variety of genres. Also, being read aloud to is an important part of the reading process as it models fluent reading. When a book can be placed in the hands of a child, an opportunity to make an impact on that child’s life is provided. Again, thank you for all of your support. If you still need schools to volunteer to be contacted by the Tallahassee Democrat, I’d be happy to help." – Michele C. Keltner, DeSoto Trail Elementary principal
• "Most children learn to read in the first grade. It is extremely important to have a strong foundation in reading at this age to promote life-long learners. Kate Sullivan has a long history of excellence with our students and it all starts with learning to read a book!" – Pam Stephens, Kate Sullivan Elementary principal
• “Reading is critical to every student’s success and it is very important we establish a love for reading at an early age. By sending a book home, it reinforces the joy of reading and actively encourages parents to share in that joy with their child.” Thanks for supporting literacy in our school and community!” – Iris Wilson, Apalachee Tapestry Magnet School of the Arts
• "Oh, it was awesome! Heather read to my class, and she did an amazing job. She had such a way with the kids! The kids were thrilled to get a brand new book all for themselves." – Heather Coe, Conley Elementary School first-grade teacher
• "Books are friends for life, and we thank you for providing our first-graders with a new friend.” – Lenita J. Joe, Sealey Elementary Math and Science Magnet School media specialist
• "We had so much fun reading to the kids! Thanks for organizing it." – Amanda Doumanian, Goodwill Industries - Big Bend public relations journalist
• "The kids enjoyed the story and were very excited to receive a book." – Tara Nester, DeSoto Trail Elementary School first-grade team leader
• "Children need to hear good reading modeled to them as it helps them to develop solid literacy skills. These skills are especially important in first grade where children normally acquire a solid reading foundation. Children can be taught “how” to read, but they need to hear adults read to them to help with skills such as prosody. Reading aloud to students also shows students that reading is fun, and that it is not just for children. Reading aloud to children helps promote a passion for lifelong reading. Providing students with their own books allows them to build a personal library, helps them to value books due to ownership, and can motivate students to want to read even more." – Champayne Ricciardi, Killearn Elementary School first-grade teacher
• "We had a great time, and I would like to commend Becky Green and her team from Homes and Land. They came out in all that horrible weather this morning to read to our students! Their time and the books for our students are greatly appreciated!" – Sue Kraul, W. T. Moore Elementary School principal

UWBB's Mission: United Way of the Big Bend unites and inspires local citizens in caring for one another and building a more vibrant community.


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