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Reading Pals Needed For United Way

Photo via Flickr// U.S. Department of Education

The United Way is looking for volunteers to serve as “Reading Pals” to area preschoolers. Andrea Krieger, the President and CEO of United Way of Escambia County, says the Reading Pals program looks to pair at risk preschool children with mentors to help them with reading skills before they enter the school system.

The mentors, who will all be volunteers, will have reading kits to use with their child that all have specific subjects of interest, including sports and wildlife and a number of other topics. This will give the mentors a chance to get to know the children as well as a way to interest them in reading and literacy.

The Reading pals program will be held at five different sites around the county: C.A. Weis Elementary, Montclair Elementary, Global Learning Academy, A Top Notch Christian Academy, and the Head Start Gibson Center. Andrea Krieger says those locations were chosen because of the demographics of the community. "United Way is into solving the problems in the community and you have to start where the problem is most concentrated."

The United Way is partnering with the group called Every Child A Reader in Escambia for the Reading Pals program, which will begin this coming school year. What they really need now are more volunteers to serve as mentors for the children. Krieger says "Every Child" is a smaller organization and was having trouble getting to 100 volunteers. The United Way has a goal of 200 mentors for the coming school year.

The program will runs for 25 weeks. Each volunteer would work with one child for one hour a week. And while the Reading Pals program is not part of the Escambia County School District, the district is providing assistance by providing some locations for the children and mentors to meet. Krieger says school officials see the value of the program. 

The Reading Pals program is made possible by an $85,000 grant to the United Way from Carol and Barney Barnett, two of the owners of Publix Supermarkets. Orientation for mentors will begin in July. If you would like to volunteer to help, contact the United Way of Escambia County at 434-3157.