Volunteer Reader Project

Volunteer Reader Project

United Way of York County has a strong commitment to educational initiatives and supporting those most vulnerable in our community.  On a national level, United Way Worldwide created an initiative known as the “Mentor, Tutor, Reader Drive” to support education and volunteerism.  UWYC will utilize resources developing the same type of initiative in York County because we know that (1) reading aloud to young children stimulates language skills, cognitive skills, motivation, curiosity and memory[1] and (2) once children start school, difficulty with reading contributes to school failure, which can increase the risk of leaving school, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy[2]


  1. To create an evaluated and successful volunteer reader training program based on feedback from volunteers, early childcare providers and teachers.
  2. Have children working with a volunteer reader score three to six months ahead of their peers who have not worked with a volunteer reader on vocabulary tests[1].
How Can I Become a Volunteer Reader?

Facts about Reading*

Did You Know?

  • The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. [Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading. Center for the Study of Reading, Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Education]
  • On average, children from low-income families have had 13 million words spoken to them by age 4, while those in higher income families have had 45 million words spoken to them by the same age. A typical child from a low-income family enters kindergarten with a listening vocabulary of 3,000 words, while a typical child of a higher income family enters with a listening vocabulary of 20,000 words. [Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children. Brookes: www.brookespublishing.com.]
  • Books and stories boost brain development.
    • stimulates their imagination
    • engages their curiosity
    • sharpens their observational skills
    • encourages them to ask more questions
    • enhances their listening skills
    • lengthens their attention span
    • encourages them to create images in their own minds rather than passively accepting images that are presented to them by television
    • aids the development of their problem-solving skills, logic, and reasoning
    • gives them information about a variety of new subjects (colors, shapes, animals, music, etc.) in an engaging, age-appropriate way
    • exposes them to literary elements like plot, characters, and setting
  • Books and stories promote language skills.
    • exposes them to a broader vocabulary than they would hear in everyday speech
    • gives them access to more complicated words and stories than they could read on their own
    • enlarges their vocabulary through repeated exposure to words in context
    • lets them hear how words are pronounced
    • makes them more likely to recognize and understand more words when they begin to read themselves
  • When we read to children, we teach them how books work and why they're important.
    • illustrates how to hold a book and turn pages
    • teaches that, in English, we read from top to bottom and left to right
    • shows that printed words have regularity and meaning; they are not just scribbles
    • shows that books are a source of information
    • helps children understand the joy of books and learning
  • Reading to and sharing stories with children develops nurturing relationships, which provide the foundation for success in school and life.
    • gives them undivided attention
    • creates strong bonds with them
    • models positive social interaction
    • boosts their self-esteem by having a caring person spend time and interact with them
    • gives them an opportunity to engage in conversation and be heard

*facts taken from United Way of King County

Thank you!

Thank you to the Maine Community Foundation for helping support this project!

[1] Sharif, I., Rieber, S., Ozuah, P.O. Exposure to Reach Out and Read and Vocabulary Outcomes in Inner City Preschoolers. Journal of the National Medical Association 2002; 94, 171-177.

[1] Bardige, B. Talk to Me Baby! (2009), Paul H. Brooks Publishing Co.

[2] E Duursma, M Augustyn, B Zuckerman. Reading Aloud to Children: The Evidence (2008), Arch Dis Child 2008;93:554–557.


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