United Way of Central Florida

Volunteers Ready to Start School

NEWS from United Way of Central Florida
August 9, 2012
863-648-1500 x 241


United Way of Central Florida is busy getting ready to go back to school. Over 100 volunteers are ready to train as “ReadingPals” at eight elementary schools in Polk and Highlands counties, but more are needed. Teaching experience is not required.

Teams of volunteers will visit area elementary schools to read with groups of three pre- kindergarten or kindergarten students. United Way is calling these volunteers "community champions", as “ReadingPals” will commit to one hour per week in the classroom for 30 weeks. Early learning experts have determined that a commitment of this length is critical because young children who bond and trust the adult reader are more likely to increase reading performance. United Way will monitor the progress of the children in the ReadingPals program with standardized tests and assessments. By 2014, they plan to have over 500 volunteers working with 1,500 students.

Carol and Barney Barnett have provided the project funding for the next three years. In a YouTube video called “ReadingPals PSA”, they say their goal is to assure that more of Florida's children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. The Barnetts of Lakeland are advocates for early education and have led related community projects including Success By 6, Family Fundamentals, Master Teacher Program, Parent Lending Libraries and others. UWCF is one of ten United Way’s invited to participate in this statewide early literacy collaboration.

One-time orientation meetings for ReadingPals will be held Aug 22-31, with one offering at each of the eight participating schools in Auburndale, Bartow, Haines City, Lakeland, Mulberry, Winter Haven, Avon Park and Lake Placid.
For more information about Polk County opportunities contact Hope Bogel at hope.bogel@uwcf.org or Julie Fells at Julie.fells@uwcf.org for information about Highlands County schools.

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