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Community Spotlight: $85k Initiative Targets Reading Skills of Manatee County Kindergarteners


BRADENTON – The United Way of Manatee County is proud to announce the launch of its second year of ReadingPals, a program funded by Carol and Barney Barnett of the Barnett Early Literacy Initiative.

“We so strongly believe that the future of our state rests in the hands and minds of our youngest, that we have personally contributed to the launching of ‘ReadingPals’ – an early literacy initiative in 10 Florida regions. Our goal is to ensure that more children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade,” said Carol Barnett of the Barnett Early Literacy Initiative.

Students who fail to reach a proficient reading level by 3rd grade are not successful in the later grades and drop out before earning a high school diploma. ReadingPals specifically concentrates on this critical milestone in a child’s early education. United Way of Manatee County was selected as one of the recipients of an $85,000 grant that will bring together both state and local organizations with this goal in mind.

United Way and its Women’s Leadership Initiative have partnered with the School District of Manatee County and the Children’s Movement to bring ReadingPals to this community for a second year. ReadingPals is a highly interactive program designed to achieve real outcomes for children. This program will take place from September – May and is a one-on-one, guided reading program for kindergarteners housed in 4 of Manatee County’s Title I elementary schools; Ballard, Blackburn, Daughtrey and Rogers Garden Elementary Schools.

ReadingPals offers individuals the opportunity to make a difference in our schools and have a lasting and life-changing impact on the lives of our struggling students. By September, our goal is to enlist 200 community volunteers. This 25-week program matches each volunteer with 2 students per weekly session where they will dedicate a half hour to reading with each student. The success of ReadingPals hinges upon the generosity of our local volunteers. If interested in becoming a volunteer or would like additional information, please contact Sandra Holmes at 941-748-1313 or via e-mail at sholmes@uwmc.net.


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