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United Way Volunteer Reader Project

Bright BeginningsUWYC's Volunteer Reader Project and the importance of United Way Readers

United Way of York County has a strong commitment to educational sucess and supporting the most vulnerable in our community. In our strategic plan under Priority Area Bright Beginnings is the goal that by 2020, "all York County children, from birth through age 8, have the best start for livelong learning and success." One of the strategic focus areas under this priority is to promote literacy for later reading and school success.

Why early literacy?
Reading is a critical bridge to success in school, work and life. Children generally are learning to read until third grade. By the fourth grade, they must read to learn. Students who don’t read well have increasing difficulty keeping up.

What is United Way of York County doing about it?
United Way recognizes that most struggling readers can learn to read if given additional help in the early grades, that's why in 2013 we started the United Way Volunteer Reader Project. The project places volunteers in classrooms and early childhood facilities around the county. These volunteers team up with students in the classroom to offer additional support with literacy skills. The good news is most students are showing great gains in their literacy skills and confidence!

Become a United Way Reader!
We are thrilled you want to volunteer your time to make a BIG impact in the lives of children in York County. Click here to fill out the United Way Reader Application. Next training wil be held in August 2015 for the the fall 2015 school year.

Resources for Current United Way Readers Ms. Rush and Chloe read at Mildred L. Day School
Why / How to log your volunteer hours.
List of age approriate books.
Tips for reading with children.

Interested Schools
Join the schools supporting students by offering additional literacy practice through the United Way Volunteer Reader Project! Click here to fill out our interested school form.


More Information about Literacy

  • Reading aloud to young children stimulates language skills, cognitive skills, motivation, curiosity and memory[1]
  • 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]
  • Children who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school. [3]
  • 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:]
  • 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


[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.

[3]Donald J. Hernandez, Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation; Center
for Demographic Analysis, University at Albany, State of New York; Foundation for Child Development, 2012.