At United Way, one of our most important goals is to increase the percentage of elementary students who are reading at grade level. By enhancing a child's reading skills, we're increasing the likelihood he or she will graduate from high school and do so on time.
ABOUT THE GRADE LEVEL READING INITIATIVE
To ensure more children enter school ready to learn and succeed academically, United Way launched the Grade Level Reading Initiative in 2013. Among the initiatives is to close the readiness gap for children who begin school far behind counterparts in wealthier families. The initiative also aims to provide enriching activities and reading materials to low-income children who might need academic reinforcement during the summer months.
The initiative currently focuses on two strategies to increase reading proficiency -- year-round book distributions and VELLO, an innovative tutoring program. These United Way led solutions and partnerships are helping children receive the extra attention, information and support necessary for them to excel not only in school but also in life.
In early 2018, our United Way began piloting Vello, a 21st Century online tutoring program founded by the Valley of the Sun United Way. Thanks to our partnership with El Paso ISD and San Elizario ISD, 35 need-based children will have the unique opportunity to participate in one-to-one virtual tutoring that will ultimately improve their reading skills. From anywhere, and from any device, volunteers will be able to connect to students in classrooms to read to them from a virtual library. Vello is convenient for volunteers and impactful for students. Vello promotes a strong start in reading for students in kindergarten through third grade.
Another component of our Grade Level Reading Initiative is our year-round book distributions. From 2017 to 2018, United Way donated more than 3,600 high quality and age-appropriate books to local children who attended literacy fairs, STEAM camps, summer feeding programs and more. By sharing books with children, they are more likely to retain literacy skills, especially during the summer months or school breaks. It aslo increases their access to enriching learning materials. When children read at home, it not only enhances their ability to become independent readers but also builds confidence and promotes lifelong learning.
Partially funded by a generous grant from Wells Fargo