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United Way's ReadingPals Initiative Enters Its 4th Year

United Way’s ReadingPals Initiative Enters Its 4th Year
Program shows 17% improved reading skills for 2nd-and-3rd graders
 
GAINESVILLE, FL (September 1, 2015) —As United Way of North Central Florida’s ReadingPals initiative enters its fourth year, reports show a significant gain in student reading out of those participating in the program. While the news is good, the program still needs volunteers to serve 100 children on the waiting list in Alachua County.
 
“We found that on average, United Way of North Central Florida ReadingPals students preformed 17% better than their peers on the Discovery Education Assessments in reading,” said program coordinator Angela Hutchings. 
 
“That is a particularly important statistic because we know close to half of the third grade students in Alachua County are not able to read at grade level and studies show these students are four times more likely to drop out of high school,” Hutchings said.
 
Hutchings manages the program, one of 15 housed at United Ways across the state of Florida. The statewide early literacy initiative is funded via a foundation under Barney and Carol Barnett, the daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins, and overseen by the Children’s Movement of Florida. The main goal of the program is pair adult mentors with second- and third-graders who have been identified as struggling readers. Mentors are asked to commit to reading to a child once a week for 12-to-25 weeks in an effort help more children read at grade level by the end of the third grade 
 
During the 2014-2015 school year, students in targeted Alachua County Public Schools were given 2,000 pre-selected books to start home libraries. More than 3,000 extra reading hours were recorded by volunteers and in the end, 85% of students maintained and/or improved their reading grade. The program also reported a 100% satisfaction rate among mentors. 
 
“Summer has come to an end and the focus has shifted on children returning to school. Now is a good time to focus on educational programs that give children the tools they need to excel,” Hutchings said. 
 
If you are interested in becoming a ReadingPals mentor, or simply wish to donate to the program, contact Angela Hutchings, ReadingPals Coordinator, at ahutchings@unitedwayncfl.org. Visit  www.ReadingPalsGNV.org. 
 
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United Way of North Central Florida has been a staple in the community since 1957. We serve a six-county area that includes Alachua, Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties. Since our inception, we have raised more than $91 million for the region. In 2014, we were awarded the highest rating by Charity Navigator for accountability and transparency. Our mission is to improve lives and connect donors to results that demonstrate a lasting impact in the lives of the people we serve.
 
ReadingPals is overseen by the Children’s Movement of Florida, a citizen-led, non-partisan movement to educate political, business and civic leaders -- and all parents of the state -- about the urgent need to substantially improve the way we care for our children. Encouraging people and leaders of Florida to make the well-being and education of our children the state's highest priority to make a real difference in the lives and futures of children.