By Faran Fagen
The United Way of Broward County is launching the ReadingPals program, aimed at ensuring that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
ReadingPals will connect volunteer tutors with pre-K through third-grade students to help improve their reading skills.
“The hour that our volunteers will be giving each week will have an effect that will last a lifetime,” said United Way of Broward County President and CEO Kathleen Cannon.
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The pilot program will start in October at two schools: Pompano Beach Elementary and Endeavour Primary Learning Center in Lauderhill. They’ll be using the Jump Start curriculum, and the principals chose the books for their school.
According to the United Way, nearly one-third of Florida’s third-graders attending public school cannot read at minimally proficient levels, and when children are behind in their reading abilities at third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school.
Potential volunteer tutors will go through a background screening, fingerprinting and curriculum training. Volunteers will be asked to dedicate one hour a week (for at least 25 weeks) to read in individual or small group settings.
“This program is specifically designed to help children at low-performing schools so that children who are struggling in this area can get the extra one-on-one help that they need to succeed,” said Lola Jordan, the United Way’s community impact director.
Program partners include the Children’s Movement of Florida, Broward County Public Schools, the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, the Early Learning Coalition of Broward County and the Children’s Services Council of Broward County.
The immediate goal is to serve more than 800 children in the two schools. Volunteers will work with students who need extra help in reading, and each child will receive at least six books to take home during the school year.
“This is such a crucial age for children to develop and enhance strong literacy skills, so they are prepared for middle and high school,” Cannon said. “We are turning outward toward the community, asking 300 dedicated volunteers for their time and support to help our children succeed in school.”