gtk-united-wayUnited Way San Diego

Did you know 30% of San Diego’s third graders aren’t reading at their grade level? In some parts of the county, that percentage can be as high as 72%!

United Way wants to change those numbers because kids who can read by the fourth grade are more likely to excel in school, go on to college and succeed in life. The good news is that things are improving, but clearly we have a long way to go.

Students only spend 20% of their time in the classroom, so reading must begin with parents – a child’s first teacher – and continue with everyone who encounters that child: neighbors, friends, family, volunteers… we all have a role to play. That’s why United Way is working to improve early-grade literacy – not only to benefit children, but the entire community.

What is United Way doing?

United Way is teaching parents the importance of being reading role models to their children, who need to see them reading and enjoying books. Their Women’s Leadership Council helped scale up Community HousingWorks’ Running Readers program, dedicated to improving literacy across San Diego County. Running Readers expanded from 9 to 15 locations, engaging over 1,200 children and their parents in family literacy nights, while distributing almost 600 books for them to take home.

Does reading really impact high school graduation rates?

Absolutely! Experts say that early intervention can make all the difference. Helping kids strengthen reading skills early on is critical: until the third grade, children are learning to read; but by the fourth grade, they are reading to learn. And third grade reading is a proven indicator of high school graduation. United Way is also leading or participating in other education initiatives, such as the City Heights Partnership for Children, which focuses on reading proficiency as a key milestone.

Lastly, through their Volunteer Challenge they are recruiting education volunteers: you can be a classroom reader, middle-school tutor or mentor for teens. Four thousand people have already signed up. Join them!

Visit and click on Volunteer.