United Way of Wyoming Valley is using the REAL MEN READ program to help foster early childhood literacy.
Childhood poverty is an increasing epidemic in America. One way to help beat it is through education. However, children who don’t develop good reading skills by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. One organization is looking to change that – one man at a time. With its REAL MEN READ program, United Way of Wyoming Valley is providing books to over 600 young students and fostering their love for reading.
Established in 2014, the REAL MEN READ program brings MENtors from the surrounding community to read to pre-k and kindergarten classes. Ranging in occupation from bankers to utility workers, these volunteers are invested in the community and dedicated towards the success of our future generation. The MENtors come into the classrooms once a month for an hour, five times a school year. They engage the class by reading a preselected book, asking a series of questions throughout the session, and then hand out a copy of the book for each student to keep. By the end of the year, each student will receive 5 high-quality books to start their own collection.
Through this program, students understand the importance of reading and see that real men value education. Many of the children in these classes are at or below the poverty line. With the REAL MEN READ program, they are given tools to be successful in their education and are exposed to a positive male role model.
Since the first book was handed out in 2014, REAL MEN READ has grown to include over 600 children, from 26 classrooms, in seven schools, across three school districts. This means United Way of Wyoming Valley is giving out over 3,000 books each year!
Rae Baldino, Community Relations Manager for United Way, discusses the perks of this program: “A lot of the children that I have the privilege of working with and get to know don’t have it easy. Poverty comes in all shapes and colors. Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it’s not. When the children receive the books, their reactions are priceless. It’s something that is theirs to keep – sometimes it’s their first book. It is a great feeling to know you are helping at-risk children in some way.”
Everyone from district superintendents to teachers to aids loves this program. Because of the program’s success, United Way of Wyoming Valley now distributes over 600 books each month. “Our partnership with BookPal has helped us stretch our charitable dollars to go a little bit further. It is really about having relationships like this where there is a person on the other end of the line to answer any questions,” states Baldino, “We don’t want to let the kids down. I can call and make adjustments to my order quickly” Some of the titles ordered from BookPal include The Tree Doctor, Curious George Goes to the Beach, and Zack’s Alligator.
It’s amazing to hear about what organizations are doing to support their local community and inspire a love for reading. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Rae! Read more about the REAL MEN READ program here.
Do you have a story to share with us? We’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below and tell us about what you’re doing with the books you’ve purchased from BookPal.
This post was written by Megan Habel, the marketing associate at BookPal. She is currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.