As part of March is Reading Month, United Way hosted fun and impactful events for second graders across Midland County. In partnership with United Way’s Young Leaders United, Northwood University’s Student United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region, volunteers invested time reading to a child.

“Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success,” shared Holly Miller, Vice President of Community Impact and Communication at United Way of Midland County. “One in three area kids are not reading at grade level by the third grade. Once a child falls behind, it can be difficult to catch up. We are committed to ensuring their success.”

The week of impact began at Carpenter Elementary School, where nearly 50 members of United Way’s Young Leaders United and Student United Way spent their lunch hour working one-on-one to encourage and inspire these young learners.

“We all know that education is important,” shared Victor Hosfeld, Chair of Young Leaders United. “I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home where reading was valued. Not everyone has the same opportunity. If we can inspire the love of reading in even one child, then today was worth it.”

Each volunteer and child enjoyed a pizza lunch and spent time reading the book, “Giraffes Can’t Dance.” The colorful illustrations and delightful rhyming text captures this sensitive tale about a clumsy giraffe that learns to dance to his own special music.

“The volunteers probably don’t realize the extent of the positive impact they make,” shared one excited parent. “My son is autistic and was having a tough day at school. This ended up being the highlight of his day. This was not just a chance to read, but a chance to interact and make a connection with another person. The book’s message was perfect: ‘you are special although you may be different’”

Members of United Way’s Young Leaders are committed to helping impact the most pressing issues by investing their time and their financial resources in United Way.

“Over 750 books are being distributed to area second graders,” shared Victor Hosfeld. “What a great impact on kids who might not have books of their own at home and an illustration of how each of us can be a part of creating change.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters joined the event to educate volunteers about the impact of spending one-on-one time with children and shared information about ongoing volunteer opportunities with their Lunchbox Learners program.

“Our goal is to inspire volunteers to take the next step and commit to reading to kids on a regular basis,” shared Ann Fillmore, Executive Director of United Way of Midland County. “The Lunchbox Learners program provides an easy way to help a child with their reading skills and also develop lasting friendships.”

In honor of March is Reading Month, additional volunteer reading activities are taking place at seven local elementary schools in Midland County. A group of Young Leaders from Members First Credit Union will be returning to Floyd Elementary to read books to children in the Scholastic Reading Oasis they sponsored and installed last summer.

“It takes a village to reinforce the importance of reading,” shared Jeff Lauer, Principal at Carpenter Elementary. “This extra reading time provides additional practice, but also reinforces the importance of reading from someone other than their teacher that they see every day.”

To learn more, contact United Way of Midland County at (989) 631-3670.