Can you spare an hour per week – or just an hour per month – to read to a child?

It is back to school time, which is hard to believe for most of us! As the summer comes to a close, many families are stocking up on school supplies like pencils, crayons, and erasers. Many students have spent the summertime reading their favorite novels, like Harry Potter or How to Train Your Dragon… But many have not. Many children have not been exposed to any type of brain-strengthening activity over the summer. In fact, many may have been strictly in “survival” mode – wondering where their next meal may come from, avoiding drugs or alcohol abuse in their home, or trying to stay cool in heat waves in a home without power or water.

Teachers across our country are tasked with addressing the “summer slide”: the game of catch up to get students back to the same academic level as they left off in May. In southern West Virginia, this is particularly challenging when so many of our children live in poverty, and may have parents working two or three jobs that are unavailable to read to their children.

Our United Way aims to improve the climate surrounding reading in southern West Virginia. We are currently recruiting volunteers to read to elementary classrooms across southern West Virginia. The volunteers’ role is to create a “commercial for reading” to the children in the audience. We want to show them that reading can be fun, it can be relevant, and it is important in many successful people in our community. Putting a positive, caring adult in front of a classroom of elementary schoolers is more powerful than you might think. For some, it may be the only adult in their life (besides their teachers) who takes time out of their day to read to them.

Our reading initiatives aim to intrinsically motivate young students to become proficient lifelong readers. We place readers in Mabscott and Cranberry Elementaries in Raleigh County, as well as partner with Read Aloud West Virginia to place volunteer readers in other schools across Raleigh County and our other 6 counties. For many, not reaching 4th grade reading level by 4th grade means that they will never catch up to their peers. Some may even drop out of high school, which is important to all of us because of the economic implications that that carries. Currently, 90% of jobs on the market require at least a high school diploma. Students who drop out are less likely to be employed, and therefor less likely to pay taxes, more likely to engage in substance abuse, more likely to become teen parents, and more likely to be incarcerated than their peers who graduate high school.

If you can take an hour out of your week, every other week, or at the very least – one hour per month – to read to local school children, please contact Christina Cowley at A 1.5 hour training is required to be placed in a classroom, which we will set you up with! A healthy community comes from a healthy economy, which requires an educated workforce. Improving our children’s reading skills addresses both. Volunteer today!