Volunteer-led literacy initiative helped 575 students;
92% of student participants in the spring improved their reading scores
Earlier this year, hundreds of Quad Citizens joined United Way and local school districts to support youth literacy by reading one-on-one each week with local students through an initiative called Read United QC.
The community-wide awareness and action campaign assisted about 575 students in pre-K through third grade during the spring and summer. Now United Way is looking for enough volunteers to help another 500 students develop the skills they need to succeed in school and life.
Read United volunteer registration is now open with weekly reading spots available in 26 schools in Scott and Rock Island counties, beginning Oct. 24 through the end of the 2022-23 school year.
Earlier this year we saw a need unlike any other: Local studies conducted with our school districts showed an alarming drop in reading proficiency scores among our youngest students,” said Rene Gellerman, President & CEO of United Way Quad Cities.
“With help from our superintendents, we developed our Read United initiative and asked our community for 500 volunteers to raise their hand to help. The response we got from businesses, nonprofits, organized labor and many, many caring friends and neighbors was overwhelmingly positive — exceeding our expectations and enabling us to help more students as a result.”
Early test scores have shown promise as well. After the spring session of Read United, 92% of students who participated in the program improved their reading proficiency.
Still, local school district testing published this year showed local third-grade reading proficiency had declined to just 30 percent from 61 percent since the start of the pandemic. Students reading on grade level by third grade are five times more likely to graduate from high school.
To overcome the slide in reading scores, United Way is extending its Read United volunteer session through the end of the school year.
“If I know just two things about our community, it’s that we never back down from a challenge, and we always show up to help our kids when they need it,” Gellerman said.
“A child’s ability to read unlocks their curiosity; it allows them to find their calling and chase their full potential. Youth literacy is linked fundamentally to the continued growth and economic vitality of our region. I am deeply proud of our community for continuing to take action, support our educators, and help provide opportunity to even more students.”
Seeking Volunteers Through the School Year
Read United works by pairing adult volunteers with kindergarten through third-grade students to read together for 30 minutes a week starting Oct. 24 throughout the entire school year.
The one-on-one reading sessions will take place on weekdays during regular school hours and after school at select schools in Rock Island and Scott counties. All volunteer opportunities are in-person.
So far over 400 reading volunteers have been requested for the program by teachers 20-plus participating locations. United Way expects additional referrals of students struggling to read with a need for at least 500 volunteer readers.
Anyone can volunteer, as long as they are at least 18, pass a background check and complete a 30-minute training held virtually.
To register, visit www.unitedwayqc.org/readunitedqc, click the “volunteer” button and choose a city to find options for the day, time and location that works best with your schedule.
* 30% of regional third-graders did not report test scores for 2020-21, compared to only 7% in 2018-19.