United Way and Greenbrier County Schools partner to promote literacy
By Sarah Mansheim
United Way of the Greenbrier Valley has partnered with Greenbrier County Schools to promote literacy. The partnership, called United for Literacy, allows the local United Way and the school system to increase both organizations’ abilities to reach out to families and bring books into homes, emphasize the importance of faithful attendance in students’ success, enhance healthcare opportunities for underserved children and help decrease summertime learning loss.
Statistics show that those four items typically affecting low-income households – school readiness, healthcare access, summer learning loss and chronic absences – dramatically affects children’s literacy. These literacy gaps are important, because by third grade, should a child read below grade level, they are 13 times more likely to drop out of school, perpetuating the poverty cycle.
“ We are working together to raise awareness and shine a spotlight on the importance of literacy. We want to connect people to people, needs to resources, and experts to advocates to enable a commitment to reading throughout the Greenbrier Valley,” said United Way of Greenbrier Valley Executive Director Cindy Lavender-Bowe.
The partnership allows Greenbrier County Schools to harness their ability to get state and federal funding with United Way’s local outreach to link school-based literacy programs to those located both inside and outside the schools. One such program is Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, an initiative set forth by the famous country music singer to give children one book a month until they turn five.
Greenbrier County Schools Early Childhood Education Director Nancy Hanna says that literacy gaps have been shown to close when a child has just 12 books in the home. This program can give children 60 age-appropriate books.
Greenbrier County Schools will promote the Imagination Library in-house through its pre-K and kindergarten programs, and the United Way will promote it through churches, WIC, the birth-to-three medical program, libraries and the Family Resource Network.
“The United Way works with 30 different nonprofits in Greenbrier County,” said Lavender-Bowe. “We are creating networks to enhance individual programs throughout the area.”