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Read Across America: Brighter Futures for Kids

Help us fight for literacy for every child in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey

The connection between education and a successful future is pretty clear. But did you know that the age at which a child learns to read can impact both their future success and overall well-being?

A quality education begins with reading. Education not only increases a child’s chance for success in work and life; it’s also been shown to be a core determinant of health. And an early start matters.

We Can Do Better For Kids

According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, kids who read proficiently by third grade are more likely to graduate high school. However, national statistics show the ways our school systems and communities serve students of color and from under-resourced neighborhoods differently.

  • 82% of students eligible for free or reduced lunches are not reading at or above proficient levels by fourth grade.
  • Only 36% of fourth-grade students in the United States are proficient in reading.
  • The gaps are even more significant by race and income, often caused by systemic racism and classism.
  • According to National Kids Count, up to 80% of children of color in the fourth grade scored below proficient reading levels in

COVID-19 Broadens the Learning Gap

While the pandemic and remote learning have caused learning setbacks for students throughout the US, the impact has been greatest for students of color:

  • A recent study indicates that Black and Hispanic students are less likely to have access to devices, the internet, and live contact with teachers--all essential to remote learning.
  • While the learning loss in reading for all students doesn’t seem to be as pronounced as that in subjects like math, today’s educational challenges underscore the importance of timely literacy support, especially for students from low-income families, who are minorities or have learning disabilities.

#PhillySJUnited Fights for Literacy for All

United Way believes that every child and young person in every community should have the knowledge, skills and experiences to succeed in school, work and life. That’s why we support programs and initiatives that provide equal opportunity for all children to develop the early reading skills that can be the foundation for a hopeful future.

One of these inclusive inclusive initiatives is Read Across America Day, an annual event created by the National Education Association to promote and celebrate reading.

Literacy Doesn’t Have to Be By the Book

With the pandemic and social distancing, literacy programs and events like Read Across America Day have had to switch to remote and virtual formats to continue to bring reading to communities. This has left many families to take on an even greater role in supporting reading development, especially for children in pre-school and elementary school.

But for many parents who are working from home and also managing their children’s remote learning, the standard advice of reading with a child 20 minutes a day may not be feasible. During these challenging times for families, United Way is adapting our literacy programs to meet social distancing needs and working to help families understand that encouraging reading doesn’t always have to mean a formal sit-down reading session. There are many everyday opportunities to help children to develop and practice vital reading skills:

  • Cook with them using written recipes
  • Have them help read street signs when you’re driving
  • Share product labels while they help put groceries away
  • Even discussing stories read together in the past can help children build a stronger vocabulary, imagine more richly, and develop critical thinking skills

You Can Help Build Opportunities for Bright Futures

When you donate to the Impact Fund, you are supporting programs that help bring literacy for all in our community. Join us for Read Across America Day on March 2, by spreading the word of Early Learning and a donation to the cause.

Literacy has the power to change lives. And you have the power to help every child in our region have the chance for a brighter future.


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