Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. In celebration of “March is Reading Month” Muskegon-headquartered Nichols, the leading provider of solutions for clean and healthy facilities and the safe shipment of products in the Great Lakes region, is matching up to $25,000 in donations made to United Way of the Lakeshore during the month of March, to support school readiness programs. These programs include a mix of reading tutors, books for early readers, and access to quality child care.
Research shows that if children learn to read by the time they are done with third grade, they are able to read to learn as they advance through their education. Helping children learn to read is critical to building an educated workforce and breaking the cycle of working families struggling to make ends meet. According to the latest Kids Count Data, nearly 60% of third graders in Muskegon County are not proficient in reading by third grade. Many of our children from low income families show up for kindergarten with a 30 million word gap compared to other children – a gap that many of them are not able to make up. We can change the odds for our kids by supporting programs that will help prepare our kids for success. Our aim is that every child graduates and is workforce ready. “As we work to meet our bold goal of helping 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025, we are also investing in education programs that will help kids be stronger readers and improve overall literacy levels in our community,” said Christine Robere, President, United Way of the Lakeshore. “Literacy is foundational to obtaining a good paying job”.
The United Way of the Lakeshore programs that will benefit from the “March is Reading Month—Be a Lucky Charm” matched funding include Pre-K Literacy Tutors through Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps (MEC) Reading Corps Program, which works to improve literacy among the community’s most underprivileged students; Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL), a national program supported by community donations, DPIL works to foster a love of reading among preschool children and their families by providing them with the gift of a specially selected book each month; and Quality Child Care, as the need for quality child care solutions in our community was identified by our ALICE families as a key barrier to success. United Way of the Lakeshore will be looking to provide funding support to improve the quality and availability of child care in our community, because high quality childcare is a key part of setting the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.
In addition to their own reading readiness programs, the United Way of the Lakeshore also supports a variety of community education and youth mentoring initiatives through Community Impact funding, ALICE grants and partnerships, including Lights on After School! Muskegon County, Retired and Senior Volunteer Program Literacy Tutors, My Brothers’ Keeper Initiative, Foster Grandparents Tutors, READ Muskegon Family Literacy, Boys and Girls Club of Muskegon Lakeshore, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore.
The research is clear, if children are proficient readers, nothing can stand in their way of getting the best bang for the buck in their K-12 experience. The early experience sets a solid foundation for students to graduate on schedule, go on to higher education or skilled training, and have higher paying jobs. Investing in education ensures a great return to our economy.
To help build an educated workforce, and to be a “Lucky Charm” in someone’s life so that they can access these important programs through the United Way of the Lakeshore, please donate to the March is Reading Month matching program. Just visit www.unitedwaylakeshore.org/luckycharm, text the word luckycharm to 40403, send a check to United Way of the Lakeshore, Attn. March is Reading Month, PO Box 207, Muskegon MI 49443, or call us at 231-722-3134. United Way of the Lakeshore is grateful to Nichols for their generous support as we celebrate reading!