This March is Reading Month, make an impact as a literacy volunteer

Published on March 9, 2022 in ,

There is no denying the importance of literacy in every facet of life — from a child pointing out words in their first books to an adult using literacy skills to advance in their career. 

High literacy rates have been found to correlate to everything from access to economic opportunity to better nutrition and reduced crime rates. And this March — National Reading Month — you can play a part in increasing literacy in your community by volunteering with United Way for Southeastern Michigan and our partners. 

“Literacy is the gateway to opportunity and the promise for a better tomorrow,” said Ellen Gilchrist, senior director of K-12 Education and Community at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “History has shown us that when literacy is suppressed, potential is squandered. This is especially true with our most vulnerable communities—our communities of color, rural communities, immigrant communities, and our most economically fragile.” 

Our work at United Way for Southeastern Michigan is done in pursuit of closing systemic inequities and ensuring that households are stable and that children thrive. Ellen adds that now, more than ever, it is critical to address the literacy gaps that permeate our community.  

“While we know that literacy is complex, we also know there are ways for every person in our region to have lasting positive impact on this quiet crisis.” 

United Way’s education team works closely with parents, schools, and organizations to improve reading skills and promote a culture of literacy. Volunteers are key to this work. Here’s how you can get involved and promote literacy this March and beyond. 

Read aloud to a child

Research shows that one of the most important things you can do for a child is read to them. This simple idea led to the launch of the Read Aloud Mentoring Program, which serves four schools in Pontiac and Detroit through one-to-one mentoring. The organization has delivered 2,500 individual reading sessions since its inception and made significant impact on students’ success.  The program is currently seeking volunteers for virtual reading sessions. Never been a mentor? No problem. Training is available to all who are interested. 

Help boost adult literacy

In our country, 1 in every 6 adults is illiterate. Zaman International’s BOOST Literacy Program uses one-on-one and small group tutoring in English as a Second Language (ESL) and Adult Basic Literacy to help low-income women learn to read. Volunteers are needed for weekly in-person shifts as adult literacy tutors at the organization’s Literacy Center in Inkster. Oakland Literacy Council also offers similar opportunities to help adult men and women build literacy. No experience is necessary to get started.

Be a virtual intern

Creative individuals with an interest writing and youth development can put their skills to work as interns or volunteers with 826michigan – a creative writing and tutoring center that provides after-school tutoring, workshops, field trips, in-school assistance, and more to students in Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Many of the program’s interns go on to pursue careers in industries where they can continue to build youth literacy. 

Create a personalized kit

United Way DIY Kits are a great way to support learning at home. The simple-to-create kits include a variety of learning items and are given directly to families in need through our partner organizations. Enlist the help of friends, family members or coworkers by hosting a drive for items tailored to each grade level, such as crayons or sight word flashcards for early learners; reading readiness workbooks for grades K-2; or novels for grades 3-5. Personalize your kit by including a book that made an impact on your early years or involve your children by having them include their favorite book along with a personalized note on characters or why they enjoy the plot. Books that can be read with parents and other household members can also be included in Family Enrichment Kits along with fun games that build literacy skills. 


Donating supplies is an easy way to make an impact this March. Southfield Public Schools is seeking donations of items including headphones, dry erase boards, and more. Specific needed items can be found and purchased through the district’s Amazon Wishlist. Southwest Solutions is also seeking supplies to be distributed to local students to support in-person and virtual learning.  


In addition to giving your time to support literacy, monetary donations are a powerful way to make a difference. Through our literacy initiatives, we’re striving to create a region where there is a rich culture of literacy, regardless of one’s socio-economic status. This includes addressing access to books, supporting programming that encourages strong literacy skills, promotes a love of reading, and advocates for equitable resources in the communities that need them most. You can support those efforts by making a donation to Read United 

For more in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities, visit our volunteer portal