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Growth 2Go

Ready. Set. READ! Christine Spanier Director, Marketing/Communications United Way of Berks County

T

ake a guess: What is one of the most significant stages of a child’s academic experience? You may be surprised to learn the answer is third grade. Why is third grade so significant? It’s the year students move from learning to read to reading to learn. Because education and early grade reading are critical issues for Berks County, Ready. Set. READ!—a community initiative managed by United Way—was launched. We know early grade reading proficiency is an important indicator of academic and future success, yet last year, 27 percent of Berks County third-graders were reading below grade level. Research indicates children not reading proficiently at this time are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Ready. Set. READ! brings together schools, businesses, organizations and individuals to help tackle the issue. The collaborative is working towards the goal of 90 percent of third-graders in Berks County reading on grade level by 2023, as measured

28 Women2Women Spring 2014

by the third grade PSSA exam. “The critical ingredient for the initiative is collaboration and community action…all of us working together to support strategies that improve reading proficiency. When you improve education, you improve the community, and vice versa,” explains Tammy White, president of United Way of Berks County. A volunteer tutoring program is a primary component of the initiative. Ready. Set. READ! has trained over 220 volunteers, including corporate employees, college students, retired educators and community members, who volunteer at 22 elementary schools within eight school districts: Antietam, Daniel Boone, Exeter, Governor Mifflin, Hamburg, Muhlenberg, Reading and Schuylkill Valley. The tutors work with over 400 second graders needing assistance to become proficient readers.

Women2Women Spring 2014  
Women2Women Spring 2014