United Way Working to Improve Literacy

By: Brendan Ponton Email
By: Brendan Ponton Email

HARRISONBURG,Va. (WHSV) -- The United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County kicked off a new initiative Wednesday morning, all with the goal of helping kids learn how to read.

Community leaders said the goal is to have all kids in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County reading at their grade level by the time they finish third grade.

That age is critical because once children are older than that, they can fall behind.

Local business and community leaders were at the event at Skyline Middle School in Harrisonburg.

The initiative will start at two local schools as part of a three year pilot program.

Organizers will study the results as they hope to bring the program to all elementary schools in the city and county.

One way they're going to get this done is through mentorship in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"We will really emphasize with our big brothers and big sisters that a way to build a relationship with their littles is through reading. What we're really doing with this is to test out some new strategies to be able to help children with their reading," said Susan Totty, the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

A statistic cited from a report posted on the Harrisonburg Schools website said 16% of students who aren't reading at their grade levels by the end of third grade don't graduate high school on time, which is much higher compared to students who do read at their grade level.

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