Getting a read on learning: United Way of Central Indiana donates 990 books for Read Across America Day

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Read Across America Day was established in 1998 by the National Education Association and is celebrated on March 2 to help get kids excited about reading. To promote the benefits of reading, especially for children in early education, the United Way of Central Indiana recently donated about 1,000 books for first- through third-graders at libraries across Boone and Hamilton counties.

United Way of Central Indiana is a nonprofit in Indianapolis that serves a seven-county region of Boone, Hendricks, Hamilton, Marion, Putnam, Hancock and Morgan counties. Its primary goal is to assist families that are near the poverty line.

United Way of Central Indiana helps financially struggling families get their footing by providing assistance for basic needs, offering educational opportunities and advocating for public policies that address the root causes of financial instability and poverty.

A large part of the United Way of Central Indiana’s educational goals is promoting intergenerational mobility. The goal is to provide children in financially fragile households with the resources to ensure they stay out of poverty in adulthood.

One of the ways the organization works toward the goal is by focusing on early childhood education, and more specifically, the importance of reading.

For the past 14 years, the United Way of Central Indiana has conducted the ReadUP program, which sends volunteers into schools across the region to read with third graders who are falling behind on their literacy skills.

United Way of Central Indiana’s Community Relations Director for Hamilton and Boone counties Aaron Gore said the focus on third grade literacy rates was not chosen at random.

Third-grade literacy is really the pivotal point for a child because that has been identified as the final year that the child is learning to read,” Gore said. “As they move into fourth grade, that’s when the transition begins where they start reading to learn instead of learning to read.”

To help support the program, the United Way of Central Indiana has donated about 1,000 books to first- through third-graders in seven libraries in Boone and Hamilton counties, The libraries are Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library, Lebanon Public Library, Thorntown Public Library, Hamilton East Public Library, Hamilton North Public Library, Sheridan Public Library and Westfield Washington Public Library.

According to Gore, 74 percent of struggling readers after third grade never catch up to their peers, which drastically affects graduation rates, future employment opportunities and earning potential.

“Frankly, it’s one of the scariest statistics whenever you think about how in third grade, if a child falls behind in literacy, it could negatively impact the rest of their life,” Gore said.

HMMPL Youth Department Head Kelli Brooks said the 230 books that the library received from United Way Central Indiana were gone within a few days.

“People were so excited to receive these books. We saw plenty of families for days looking for copies, so they didn’t last long,” Brooks said. “And we really loved working with United Way. It was a fantastic experience all around.”

United Way of Central Indiana partnered with Scholastic for the program, allowing Scholastic, the largest publisher and distributor of children’s books in the world, to choose two age-appropriate books with a focus on having good character and accepting oneself and others around them. The books were offered in Spanish and English.

The two books chosen for donations were “Be You!” by Peter Reynolds and “Good Egg” by Jory John. Gore traveled to the Boone County libraries Feb. 28 and to Hamilton County libraries March 1 to hand out the books and read to children in attendance.

“Our goal is to encourage reading, especially at an early age, with these books and to ensure that families have the ability to build up their at-home libraries, because we know that when parents are reading to their children, those children have much better literacy rates,” Gore said.

Members of the HMMPL pause with Aaron Gore outside the library by the Bookmobile. From left, Youth Department Head Kelli Brooks, Outreach Services Department Head
Lydia Lutz, Outreach Services Department Head, Aaron Gore and HMMPL Executive Director Sarah Moore.

Book Distribution

  • Hussey-Mayfield Memorial Public Library (230)
  • Lebanon Public Library (120)
  • Thorntown Public Library (60)
  • Hamilton East Public Library (230)
  • Hamilton North Public Library (60)
  • Sheridan Public Library (60)
  • Westfield Washington Public Library (230)
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