United Way of Central Indiana Extends Reading Intervention to Help Kids Succeed in School

20 AmeriCorps workers needed to help 400 first and second graders become better readers

Starting this fall, first and second graders attending 10 Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) and who struggle with reading will benefit from an expansion of United Way of Central Indiana's (UWCI) signature reading intervention program, ReadUP, United Way announced today.

For the coming school year, United Way will hire 20 AmeriCorps members who will work with new elementary students 20 minutes a day so that they can build phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and other reading skills to bring them up to grade level.

New ReadUP Corps members will tutor first and second graders. This activity will complement the tutoring offered to third and fourth graders by 800 United Way volunteers in the existing ReadUp program. United Way cites research that students who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than students with reading skills.

"Learning to read is an essential skill for our children," said Ann D. Murtlow, UWCI's president and chief executive officer. "We've made excellent progress with our volunteer tutoring program, but we have to start even earlier to help struggling readers. We know what to do, and we are pleased that we now have the resources to make it happen," Murtlow added.

Funding for the program is possible thanks to a $260,000 Corporation for National and Community Service grant, administered by the Indiana Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives and the Indiana Commission on Community Service and Volunteerism, along with cash and in-kind contributions totaling $300,000 from United Way and IPS. Literacy coaches, funded by the M.A. Rooney Foundation, will provide professional development for AmeriCorps members in participating schools.

"ReadUp is an outstanding program connecting our students with caring adults with proven results. Our children benefit academically and also through time spent with the adult volunteers. Our adults will tell you they benefit, too," said Joan Harrell, IPS director of elementary education.

United Way started ReadUP, a volunteer reading tutoring program in 2007, in response to data showing that 30 percent of all IPS fourth graders were reading two or more grades below their grade level, putting them at higher risk of not graduating from high school. ReadUP has helped tutored students improve their reading scores by 37 percent over students not tutored, based on the most recent data available.

United Way's reading intervention programs, which include a volunteer reading program for pre-schoolers, are part of its comprehensive focus on helping kids succeed in school as the key to breaking the cycle of need for future generations. Next year, all three programs will reach more than 2,200 students with at least one of the programs in each of United Way's six-county region.

Volunteers are still needed as tutors and readers for the coming school year too. Visit ReadTutorMentor.org to select a convenient time and location.

AmeriCorps is a national service program that engages Americans of all ages and backgrounds in intensive service to address education, poverty, health, disaster relief and other critical issues. Among other accomplishments, AmeriCorps members last year mobilized 3.4 million community volunteers, and educated, mentored or served more than 3.5 million disadvantaged youth nationally.

Indiana Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives connects organizations and communities to grants, services and each other; promotes volunteerism and service to improve the lives of Hoosiers; encourages public and private resources to seed and sustain innovative and high quality community and faith-based initiatives; and highlights the good works of individuals and their communities with best practices and innovative models.

Editor's Note: The 10 IPS schools to start ReadUP Corps for first and second grade students in the fall include: Washington Irving 14, Thomas D. Gregg 15, James A. Garfield 31, Louis B. Russell, Jr. 48, James Russell Lowell 51, Brookside 54, Ralph Waldo Emerson 58, George H. Fisher 93, George Buck 94, and Francis Scott Key 103.

Mary L. Kinney
Public/media relations director
317.921.1224 during business hours
317.498.0647 after hours