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United Way of Northeast Florida ReadingPals

United Way of Northeast Florida ReadingPals

Reading is fundamental…and a gateway to
a love of life-long learning. But nearly a third of Florida’s third graders attending
public school cannot read at grade level. The United Way of Northeast Florida’s ReadingPals
program recently hosted a Dr. Seuss-themed breakfast at Florida Blue’s Deerwood campus
to celebrate the initiative’s first year and the volunteers who’ve helped to improve the
literacy and language skills of northeast Florida children. “Volunteers commit to those same two or three
kids each week for 30 weeks during the course of the school year, so rather than getting
sort of intimidated by this problem with school readiness with 30% of students not being ready
to start Kindergarten, it’s something very concrete that people can do.”
“I saw children go from being unsure of their knowledge of their numbers and shapes and
letters and so forth to just seeing them in their graduation this past Monday and they
were very confident.” “It’s so amazing when you go in and something
you’ve taught them two weeks before…all of a sudden, they bring that up or they use
that…” “It’s a stepping stone for our 4 year olds
to learn new words, create stories, use their imaginations…”
“It’s such an enriching experience, not just for the children but for the adults who are
involved.” “My first ReadingPals were a little girl and
a little boy and after several weeks I walked in and the little girl ran up, threw her arms
around me and she said ‘I missed you’ so I thought that was really special.”
“You’re always thinking of what’s on the schedule. I have this to do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
but when you get in the classroom with the children it’s all right there and the children
bring you to that place and you just get time to spend time with young people and help them
and that really makes me feel good.” “We are actually out in the community in full
force instilling in our young people how important it is to learn early, to read early…”
“I tell volunteers all the time kids can never have too many adults who care about them.
And so our ReadingPals volunteers provide that extra support.”
“My belief is that it’s not important just to be successful, but also to live a life
of significance. And in doing so you’re giving back to the community. And I think Florida
Blue with their corporate responsibility efforts, this is feeding into that because we want
to make a imprint in the community. And if we build strong communities that will also
lead to a healthier community, as well. “I’m not much of a crier. My friends always
tell me something’s wrong with my tear ducts but that last day you’re so filled with joy
and happiness and love for these kids it’s just so hard not to be overtaken by your emotions
because it’s just such a precious experience.”

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