United Way seeks volunteer readers and 5,000 books for preschoolers


Through its ReadingPals volunteer program United Way of Miami-Dade and its partners are working hard to ensure our youngest residents have access to books, early literacy interactions and are entering kindergarten ready to learn.

ReadingPals has begun its fifth consecutive year of volunteers reading to preschoolers to enhance their literacy and social skills. United Way is recruiting 200 volunteers and collecting 5,000 age-appropriate books to continue helping 4-year-olds succeed in school and in life.

“Working with children in ReadingPals has been such a rewarding experience as I’ve learned as much from the children I’ve worked with as they have from me,” said John L. Callaway III, who is entering his third year as a ReadingPals volunteer. “It has been genuinely heartwarming to witness the progress each child I’ve worked with has made.”

Each volunteer is matched with two children to help build vocabulary and other literacy as well as social skills by reading high-quality books and engaging the youngsters in interactive learning activities during the course of 28 weeks.

The ReadingPals program seeks volunteer readers to spend 30 minutes per week with two students at one of more than 50 preschool classrooms. The program offers trainings for participating volunteers and teachers that utilize the Voluntary PreKindergarten (VPK) assessment to identify intentional interventions for children.

Take-home books are imperative, because increasing the number of books available to children at home increases occurrences of reading with others, voluntary reading and overall improvement in basic literacy skills.

The program offers early learning beyond the classroom by providing each child with take-home books, along with easy-to-follow activities that align with VPK standards and promote kindergarten readiness. At the end of the program, each child will receive a “Transition to Kindergarten” kit that includes books and a calendar of summer activities for families.

Last school year, ReadingPals provided 156 children with 2,507 hours of reading intervention and meaningful activities, along with 1,200 take-home books.

For more information, visit www.unitedwaymiami.org/readingpals. To volunteer with the ReadingPals program or host a ReadingPals book drive, send email to readingpals@unitedwaymiami.org or call 305-646-7021. Purchase and donate pre-selected children’s book bundles at a special price at www.booksandbooks.com/united-way-community-book-drive.

Fifteen United Ways in Florida are currently participating in this five-year initiative funded through a private grant from Carol Jenkins Barnett, chair and president of Publix Super Markets Charities, and Barney Barnett, Publix vice chairman. Joining United Way in this ReadingPals initiative are local partners: Books & Books, Early Learning Coalition, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Miami-Dade Public Library Systems, The Children’s Movement of Florida and The Children’s Trust.

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