Volunteers are needed to read a story about making friends to youngsters in 300 elementary classrooms in three counties. “It’s a fabulous opportunity to spread the word of how critical it is that children are reading at grade level by the time they are 8 years old,” says Genie Sherard, president of the United Way of Horry County.
“United To Read” will place volunteers – for about an hour – in elementary classrooms in Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties on the morning of Nov. 17. Lucy Woodhouse, executive director of Black River United Way, points out that the volunteer readers will need only about an hour. Volunteers need to sign up early, so the school districts can do required background checks.
Sherard and Woodhouse are signed up in their respective areas to read “Peanut Butter & Cupcake!” by Terry Border. For Woodhouse, the story on Nov. 17 will be an extension of her weekly visits to Maryville Elementary School in Georgetown as a reader for the Rotary Club of Georgetown.
Both United Way organizations have initiatives that focus on childhood learning, particularly helping children to be reading at grade level by the time they complete third grade. “They learn to read to about age 8; after that they read to learn and if they fall behind it’s almost impossible to catch up,” Sherard says. “It’s just imperative that this is addressed.”
United To Read started with Woodhouse and Yolanda McCray, BRUW director of community impact, kicking around an idea. Woodhouse called Sherard and the two area United Way organizations teamed to launch a new literacy event. Other players in the project are the Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg County school districts; Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library; the Rotary Club of Georgetown; and the public library systems of Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
Imagination Library is providing the book for 150 Horry County Schools first-grade classrooms and the Rotary Club is purchasing books, at a reduced cost, from Imagination Library for 150 elementary classrooms in Georgetown and Williamsburg counties.
Peanut Butter and Cupcake are two of the characters in Border’s book, which includes an exercise about making friends for the volunteer readers to do with the children after reading the story. The books are left for the classroom teachers. Other characters include Jelly, Soup, Egg, Hamburger and French Fries. The story teaches a wonderful lesson about friendship, Sherard says, and diversity is introduced by the different kinds of food. “It’s an engaging book, with hysterical humor.”
United To Read has three benefits: “a very positive reading experience for the children; a very positive volunteer experience for the readers; and the scope of the effort brings attention to the importance of making learning to read a priority.”
As of Tuesday, United Way of Horry County has 90 volunteers and Black River has about 30. So plenty of opportunities remain for volunteer readers to be a part of an exciting event for childhood learning and literacy.