We are united with United Way

Until I worked for the Rockford Public Schools, I had no idea how many partnerships the district was involved in. There are dozens of these collaborations. One of my biggest learning curves was figuring out which agencies had a role where in our district.

The volunteer reading/mentor program called I READ is easy to understand. The United Way of Rock River Valley runs the program in seven of our elementary schools – Reading-Mentor-Pledge-HeaderWhitehead (new this year), Beyer, Hillman, King, Lewis Lemon, Lathrop and West View. (Harlem School District is involved as well.) Volunteers make a strong commitment to follow a child from kindergarten through third grade.

Research shows that a child who is proficient at reading by the fourth grade has a much better chance of graduating and being successful.

Reading skills are the most tangible benefit. But anyone who has worked with kids knows the magic that can happen when a stable and positive relationship is built between an adult and a child.

Here’s the other magical thing, the part about collaboration: An I READ training was held this week in the basement of the district administration building. We didn’t just share our facility. Jen Jump, RPS dean of elementary literacy, led the training and was informed, animated and fun. She took us into the mind of a kindergartner. A RPS Communications Department staff person videotaped the session, so volunteers who couldn’t make the training could watch it later. Our Parent and Community Empowerment Department provides lots of other support.

I am one of 153 RPS volunteers in the I READ program. I’m headed to West View, and I hope I don’t scare the poor child with my excitement. I remember my fluffy pink-and-white giraffe rug that I brought to kindergarten for naps (none of those anymore!).  I remember kindergarten being a bright place of discovery and fun. I need to remember – thanks, Mrs. Jump – this isn’t about me, it’s about the student. I read, therefore I can help.

Mary Kaull is communications coordinator for the Rockford Public Schools. If you would like to help with the I READ program, contact Anna Kaye, director of the Volunteer Center, at annak@unitedwayrrv.org or 815-986-4806.