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

Published on February 25, 2021 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 most important tool we have to combat poverty and promote social and economic equality,” said Vanita Sanders, Senior Director of K-12 Education and Digital Inclusion at United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “With the help of volunteers, we can reach more individuals with one-on-one help, and improve our communities more effectively and efficiently.”

She adds that the COVID-19 pandemic has made volunteer efforts even more critical to children’s success.

“Many families were already struggling to meet their basic needs and keep their kids on track to succeed in school,” Vanita said.  “When schools closed and many after-school activities were suspended, it further increased the burden on families. Even as schools return to in-person learning, we need volunteers to help students navigate a new normal and reach grade-level reading goals.”

United Way’s education team supports efforts to close literacy and foundational skills gaps across the region. We work closely with parents, schools, and organizations to improve reading skills and build communities where children can thrive.

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. Although they are prioritizing mentors with previous experience, new mentors are encouraged to sign up now for future program enrollment.

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. With your help, these women can gain education and other valuable life skills. 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.

Join an advisory board

Read to a Child is a national literacy and mentoring nonprofit that fosters a love of reading, improves literacy skills and empowers underserved children by inspiring adults to read aloud to them regularly. Advisory boards are critical to the success of organizations like Read to a Child, and they are seeking new regional board members who will aid in their growth by lending their skills and expertise in a variety of areas. As a member of the board, you will play an integral role in supporting youth literacy by engaging other corporate leaders and donors to support the organization’s work in the region.

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