Local News

United Way seeks ReadingPals voluteers

— The United Way of Central Florida, Highlands County division’s ReadingPals program is recruiting volunteer readers to work with kindergarten students in the upcoming school year.

ReadingPals is an early literacy initiative supported by the UWCF Women’s Leadership Council, created by Carol and Barney Barnett of Publix Supermarkets. The Barnetts donated $3 million to 10 United Way chapters in Florida to support the program for three years. The early literacy initiative’s goal is to help kindergarten students to read on their appropriate grade level by third grade.

“The ReadingPals program has enabled our kindergarten students to develop their reading skills and build the confidence they need in order to succeed academically,” said Hope Bogel, WLC program manager for ReadingPals. “We are seeking new volunteers for the 2014-2015 school year, and hope to reach the goal of deploying 2000 ReadingPals statewide.”

ReadingPals volunteers commit to weekly, one-hour reading sessions September to May at two partnership elementary schools in Highlands County. All books and materials are provided by United Way. Volunteers can request Avon Elementary or Lake Country Elementary.

“Since the program’s inception in 2012, over 300 ReadingPals have served nearly 1,000 students in Polk and Highlands counties,” Bogel said. “We are anticipating significant growth in the 2014-2015 school year – the more volunteers we have, the closer we are to serving more students who truly need the service.”

New ReadingPals volunteers must be accepted as a School Board of Highlands County volunteers and attend one mandatory volunteer training.