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Volunteers could help improve literacy levels in Middle Georgia

From left, United Way of Central Georgia President and CEO George McCanless, Peyton Anderson Foundation President Karen Lambert, Knight Foundation Program Director Beverly Blake and Bibb County schools Superintendent Curtis Jones stand in front of the new Read United program logo.
From left, United Way of Central Georgia President and CEO George McCanless, Peyton Anderson Foundation President Karen Lambert, Knight Foundation Program Director Beverly Blake and Bibb County schools Superintendent Curtis Jones stand in front of the new Read United program logo. abraxton@macon.com

Parents and children across Middle Georgia can expect to see advances in literacy and grade level reading in the coming year.

Thanks to a $180,000 grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation, United Way of Central Georgia launched its new Read United program, an initiative to join volunteer tutors with children and students to improve reading proficiency in Middle Georgia. Also, a $62,000 grant from the Knight Foundation will allow United Way to partner with M&R Marketing Group in a yearlong awareness movement to bring in tutors as well.

United Way of Central Georgia president and CEO George McCanless, Bibb County schools Superintendent Curtis Jones and M&R Marketing Group co-founder Matthew Michael announced the new initiative Thursday at the Peyton Anderson building in Macon.

The initiative looks to improve reading literacy levels in young children, specifically between kindergarten and third grade.

Read United comes on the heels of the Read2Succeed program from a year ago. It will include both Read2Succeed and a tutoring program sponsored by the AARP Foundation Experience Corps for volunteer readers 50 and older.

Another grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation enabled Read2Succeed to expand from one elementary school to 10 in Bibb County last year. The program sent 106 tutors to 427 students from kindergarteners through third grade and saw improved scores in a large number of students, McCanless said.

“I think we have proven that tutoring along with what the school system is doing, it works. ... There are plenty of children in the schools that need additional help and that are eager and thirsty to learn.” he said. “The only thing we’re missing ... is tutors.”

Bibb County Schools Superintendent Curtis Jones said the initiative is timely with the efforts his staff has in place in Bibb County. Jones recently announced the Middle Georgia Regional Library System’s summer reading program with state Superintendent Richard Woods.

Jones said an improvement in overall graduation rates starts with programs like Read United, which encourages people to tutor and children to read.

“It will happen if we all stay together. It will happen if we stay focused. It will happen if we believe. It will happen if we encourage our students. ... If you want to make our community better, volunteer,” Jones said. “Come tutor. Make a difference in the life of a student.”

Anyone interested in tutoring students in reading once a week should contact Ariel Malcom with United Way at amalcolm@unitedwaycg.com or 478-745-4732, extension 205.

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