Read United, an initiative of United Way of Central Georgia, addresses the literacy challenges facing Central Georgia. Read United recruits volunteers to tutor kindergarten through third grade students in reading. Through tutoring, volunteers help children increase their reading literacy, become a positive influence in the child’s life, and improve the overall health and wellness of our community.
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Learning to read is critical in the early years of childhood because a shift occurs in the schools when the child enters grade four. From kindergarten to third grade, a child learns to read. When the child enters grade four, the child reads to learn. If a child does not know how to read, essentially the child cannot efficiently learn, and a downward spiral occurs.
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Read United, together with the volunteers of our community, aims to close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, and disrupt the cycle of poverty through two tutor-based programs: Experience Corps and Read2Succeed.
Read United In Action
Experience Corps is an intergenerational model in which tutors who are at least 50 years old will work with a struggling student over time. You may not think you’re equipped to be a tutor or mentor to students who struggle with reading. However, the fact that you can read and impart that knowledge to a younger generation is success in itself.
Because volunteers are working with children of a vulnerable population, there are five requirements a volunteer must meet:
- Be at least 50 years of age
- Can participate in 25 hours of ongoing professional development (training)
- Can serve at least four hours a week for the entire school year (about 30 weeks)
- Possess a high school diploma or GED
- Will agree to and pass a criminal background check
The intergenerational factor is vital for Experience Corps to succeed and for our community to thrive. There is value between intergenerational connection—what the elder can teach and what the young can give and vice versa. The intergenerational relationship and mentoring is just as important as the academic tutoring that will take place.
The Read2Succeed program is open to volunteers ages 18 and older who would like to tutor students in reading for at least one hour a week. The program lasts from early September to late April and follows the school holiday calendar. Volunteers participate in five hours of training throughout the school year and the schools provide all tutoring materials.
The weekly tutoring sessions will be either 1-on-1 or in a group setting. Volunteers communicate with a designated volunteer coordinator at the school throughout the program. Read2Succeed requires that volunteers have a GED or high school diploma and a completed background check.
With Read2Succeed, the goal is to come alongside the teachers and add another layer of assistance to these kids who may be struggling. Read2Succeed helps them learn to read, which will affect the rest of their lives. Whether learning to read affects the choices they make or what they’re able to do, it’s one of the most important things in life.
United Way’s strategic focus aims to instill comprehensive early childhood and grade-level reading in students.
Five guiding principles serve as the foundation for our plans and the strategies to fulfill them: whole-child development, birth-through-third-grade learning, family engagement, inclusion, and collective impact.
Early Education Empowerment Zone (E3Z)
Early Education Empowerment Zone’s main objective is to increase development of key programs and services to help more children with high needs. E3Z aims to improve the success and learning rate of children upon entering the third grade.