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United Way Pilots Free Virtual Summer Reading Program

Free Program combats summer learning loss and keeps children engaged in classroom level reading by connecting students virtually with trained volunteer mentors for one-to-one reading time.

Philadelphia, Pa. (July 6, 2020) – United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) is piloting a free virtual summer reading program to help students stay on track with reading goals ahead of school re-openings this fall. The Vello Summer Reading Program is coming out of the classroom to students at home for the first time this summer from June 22 – August 27.

As part of United Way’s Early Grade Literacy programming, Vello pairs children with trained virtual reading mentors. Together, students and volunteers read e-books using encrypted Zoom screen sharing and audio twice per week.

“Every student deserves high-quality education and with COVID-19 related school closures, many students are prevented from engaging in stimulating exchanges with trained instructors, a practice that research demonstrates is a key component of learning,” said Dr. Mariama Grimes, Managing Director of Early Learning for UWGPSNJ. “By pairing students with trained, caring mentors, Vello gives them the academic engagement they need to improve their literacy development in a safe, fun environment.”

Vello helps students learn to read proficiently through weekly guided reading sessions and by empowering teachers, parents and caregivers with innovative, easy-to-use literacy tools. Vello also provides students with 24/7 access to an extensive 50,000 book e-library for themselves and their family members, helping form valuable reading habits in and out of the classroom.

Grade level reading is a key leading indicator of a student’s likelihood of graduating from high school – in fact, students who don’t read proficiently by the end of third grade are four-times more likely to drop out of high school than those who are proficient readers. In addition, even during normal academic years, research shows that students in 3rd to 5th grades lose, on average, about 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading, an issue that’s expected to be exacerbated by current school closings.

“A quality education opens doors and opportunities” said Bill Golderer, UWGPSNJ President & CEO. “Vello and United Way’s other Early Learning programs help put thousands of books into the hands of local students and connects families to proven literacy resources and programs to empower our region to thrive and meaningfully reduce poverty.”

The deadline to register your child is Monday, July 13. For more information and to register, visit here.


United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, serving communities in Pennsylvania’s Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties, and New Jersey’s Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May and Cumberland counties, is part of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and in people’s lives. United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. In Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, United Way fights for youth success and family stability because we LIVE UNITED against intergenerational poverty. For more information about United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey visit

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