Hundreds of Volunteers Mobilized in Heart of Florida United Way’s Day of Action Aimed at Reducing Summer Reading Gap


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Pictured above: Volunteers from SunTrust Bank read to children about financial topics and played financial literacy games as part of Heart of Florida United Way’s Day of Action on June 17, 2013.

Terrific event photos are available on all of the links below. Please feel free to tag yourself, share the photos on your social media or download and keep for your own personal use.

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By the end of fifth grade, low-income children are approximately 2.5 years behind their peers in terms of reading ability – primarily because of the summer reading gap, which is the gradual decline of reading proficiency while children are away from the classroom. Heart of Florida United Way’s (HFUW) annual Day of Action – a community-wide, one-day volunteer event – recently helped to change this.

Hundreds of volunteers contributed to projects that impacted more than 1,700 children at 18 partner agencies, including Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Winter Park Day Nursery, Orlando Day Nursery Association, PACE Center for Girls, Schools and Communities: Together for Tomorrow, and the Apopka Family Learning Center.

To encourage reading and foster literacy in young people, volunteers engaged in a variety of activities, including reading aloud, creating skits and playing rhyming games. Additionally, each child received at least two free books from the nearly 6,000 collected prior to the event.

“The summer reading gap is a significant issue in our community, and United Way’s Day of Action puts the muscle behind making a difference,” said Traci Blue, director of HFUW’s Volunteer Resource Center. “It’s our hope that the children go home with the tools they need to cultivate a passion for learning.”

With price being the number one barrier to book ownership, children in low-income families don’t have sufficient access to age-appropriate books. In fact, a recent study found that in middle-income neighborhoods, the ratio of age-appropriate books per child is 13 to 1, while in low-income neighborhoods, it is 1 for every 300 children.

“Our programs provide a safety net to help people in crisis; however, our goal is to intervene before they get there,” said Robert H. (Bob) Brown, president and CEO of HFUW. “Laying a solid educational foundation is preventative; children will be more likely to break the poverty cycle for their families and not need our help later on.”

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