Blog: Installing a Love of Reading in Young Children

Nearly one third of Florida’s third graders attending public school can’t read at minimally proficient levels.  And, unless they improve their skills, these kids are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

That’s where United Way’s ReadingPals comes in. We know research shows that reading aloud to kids can help them develop into strong readers – a building block for a lifetime of academic success. ReadingPals connects passionate, committed volunteers with preschoolers who need a little extra help getting ready for kindergarten.

For 30 minutes each week, volunteers help kids build vocabulary and other social skills by reading high-quality books and engaging them in interactive learning activities.

For the past five years, ReadingPals has provided more than 1,700 children with more than 7,000 hours of reading intervention and meaningful activities, along with more than 5,000 take-home books. Currently, 15 United Ways throughout Florida are participating in the initiative.

“It has been genuinely heartwarming to witness the progress each child I’ve worked with has made,” said John L. Callaway, III, who is entering his third year as a ReadingPals volunteer.

Book donations are key, because increasing the number of books available to children at home increases the likelihood of that child engaging in reading voluntarily, which improves their overall literacy skills. ReadingPals offers early learning beyond the classroom by providing each child with a minimum of four take-home books, along with activities to promote kindergarten readiness. At the end of the program, each child receives a “Transition to Kindergarten” kit that includes books and a calendar of summer activities for families.

You can do your part to provide positive reinforcement and personal attention to a child who can benefit from a little extra reading support.  Reach out to your local United Way today to find out how you can help a struggling child in your community discover the wonders of reading.

Christine Sanchez