ReadingPals program works to get Northeast Florida’s children “reading ready”

Over the next three years, 1,000 volunteer ReadingPals will be placed throughout the region, helping Northeast Florida’s children become “reading ready” before they enter school as part of a new early literacy initiative.

Northeast Florida is one of 10 regions participating in the three-year initiative from the United Way and Children’s Movement of Florida. The program’s goal is to increase the number of students reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

Locally, the initiative will be implemented by the United Way of Northeast Florida’s Women in Local Leadership. The region received $300,000 of a $1,000,000 statewide grant from Publix founders Carol and Barney Barnett.

Trained, volunteer ReadingPals will be required to visit pre-k students at risk of falling behind one-to-two times a week for 30 minute for a  29-week period (following the school-year calendar). During the program’s first year, volunteers will be  at Duval County Public Schools Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten sites, United Way-certified Success by 6 early learning centers and certified Guiding Stars early learning centers.

Ninety percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age 5, making the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten years important times for  quality reading experiences.

ReadingPal applications are available at http://www.liveunitednortheastflorida.org.