Want to be part of the solution? Become a UWBB ReadingPal | #teacher | #children | #kids | #sextrafficing | #childsaftey

It’s a statistic that is hard to imagine – 62% of children entering school in Leon County are not “Kindergarten Ready.” And kids that start behind cannot catch up without extra help.

That’s where we are asking you to step in. One hour of your time each week spent helping a child in pre-K to third grade learn to read can not only put that young boy or girl on equal footing with classmates, but it also helps ensure future academic and career success. It is also guaranteed to be an experience you will treasure.

We know. We’ve seen firsthand the pride of an emerging reader as he proudly traces his finger under the words on the page of his favorite book, announcing that he doesn’t need any help on a previously difficult word. Or the joy of a little girl getting to choose a book to take home as her very own for the first time. And beyond reading, we’ve been honored to be a pal that a child trusts enough to share their dreams and their worries.

This year, the United Way of the Big Bend celebrated its 10th anniversary of ReadingPals. This early learning initiative trains and supports volunteer mentors to help young children who are learning to read. We’ve been in as many as 18 Leon County schools, and during the pandemic, we adjusted to online mentoring and now offer in-person and online options to our volunteers.

By the time school starts in August, our goal is to have 150 adult mentors to pair with children who want and deserve a little extra attention and help to get the right start they need to succeed.

What’s more, we’ve thought through all the what-ifs.” What if I miss a week due to illness or travel?” Other mentors quickly step in and help when a mentor must be out. “What if I’m not a teacher?” We train all mentors to use research-based lesson guides and literacy activities created by teachers and reading specialists – we make it as easy as possible. “What if I don’t want to travel far?” We have schools across the county and can offer online mentoring as well. “What if I can’t volunteer to mentor but still want to help?” You can donate to the UWBB’s Reading Pals program. It costs $165 per student per year for books, supplies, and resources. You can donate here or by visiting uwbb.org.

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