Summertime is such a great time of year and happens to be my favorite. For many people, it’s filled with vacations, barbecues and plenty of beach time, and for many businesses it tends to be a slow time of year.
However, that is not the case for our United Way’s ReadingPals program.
Summertime for us means recruiting and training new volunteers, following up with returning volunteers and packing and delivering curriculum bins. All of this must happen so that we are all set to kickoff our fifth year of ReadingPals beginning the week of Sept. 9.
I began my career over four years ago with United Way of Citrus County when I was presented the opportunity to launch this brand-new program. ReadingPals is a statewide initiative through a partnership between the Children’s Movement of Florida and 17 United Ways across the state.
Our ReadingPals program focuses on developing literacy skills for students in prekindergarten (VPK) and kindergarten across our county.
Volunteers spend one hour a week working with the same student(s) throughout the school year. Data shows that 74% of ReadingPals students increased their literacy skills compared to 52% of their non-
ReadingPal peers. Even though those statistics are impressive, what I love the very most about this program is the bond that the volunteers and children develop. Each and every year I hear such heartwarming stories, and the volunteers all know they are making such a positive difference in these children’s lives.
Volunteers do not have to have a background in teaching, a common misconception. The curriculum that is used was developed specifically for volunteers and is easy to follow. Each volunteer will be provided a training session to be introduced to the curriculum and materials.
Another wonderful aspect of this program is that we provide each child with 20 brand-new books to add to their at-home libraries. The looks on their little faces when they open the bag to see all of those books is priceless.
We recently were chosen for a $10,000 grant from Duke Energy to expand ReadingPals.
Thanks to these additional funds, we were able to purchase kindergarten curriculum for five more schools.
We are so grateful to Duke Energy for their continuous support of not only our
ReadingPals program, but our United Way in general. While this is wonderful and exciting news, it also means that we are in need of more volunteers to make it happen.
I know we can do it, but I need your help. If you, or someone you know are interested in becoming a ReadingPal, you can call our office at 352-795-5483 and ask for Cheri Simek or you
can click HERE.
Help us continue to make a positive impact in the lives of our Citrus County children.