United Way of Charlotte County is excited to be part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and grateful for Fawcett Memorial Hospital sponsoring the work in Charlotte County.
“Fawcett Memorial Hospital has a long history of investing time, talent and resources toward the education of our community’s children,” said Bill Hawley, president and CEO of Fawcett Memorial Hospital, a supporter of the Suncoast Campaign’s work in Charlotte County. “This is a sound investment toward the development of our future workforce, and we encourage Charlotte County’s business community to learn about the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading’s efforts and contribute to this movement.”
October 1, 2018
Charlotte joins effort to boost elementary reading
By Kayla Gleason, Sun Correspondent
In an effort to increase the reading abilities of local students, Charlotte County has joined the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Part of a nationwide campaign involving more than 44 states, the Suncoast division is focused on “closing achievement gaps, ending inter-generational poverty and reducing high school dropout rates by ensuring that children are able to read proficiently by the end of third grade,” in Sarasota, Manatee and now Charlotte counties, according to a recent news release.
“Last year, 63 percent of the third-graders in Charlotte County scored a three or above on the FSA Reading test, leaving 37 percent of the children unable to reach this important milestone,” said Beth Duda, director of the campaign.
“In our education system, children are taught to read from birth to grade three, after that, they are expected to be able to read to learn. Children not reaching that milestone are more likely to drop out of high school,” Duda said.
She said there are a number of organizations, agencies and people “dedicated to improving outcomes for the children of Charlotte County.”
“The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading provides an opportunity for these organizations, agencies, and individuals to work together on common aspirations, sharing their assets and leveraging their impact.”
The SCGLR partners with the United Way Suncoast in Manatee County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Patterson Foundation.
And now, the United Way of Charlotte County is responsible for bringing the campaign’s efforts to area children.
“Everyone in Charlotte County is doing a lot around education but the United Way thought ‘how can we come together and do all of these things together?’ It made sense for us to take on the Suncoast Campaign as part of that mission,” said Angie Matthiessen, executive director of the Charlotte County United Way.
Each community designs their own action plan, according to Duda, allowing them to create and undertake extremely area-specific initiatives.
“We are adopting some of the Suncoast Campaign’s key programs but we also want to get local businesses and organizations involved,” Matthiessen said.
Already, the United Way has prepared and distributed 1,100 Kindergarten Readiness Bags filled with books, school supplies and useful information with the help of the Charlotte Community Foundation, the Charlotte Harbor Rotary Club and the Patterson Foundation.
Under the campaign, they also participated in the Summer Book Challenge, which featured 10 local sites already focused on encouraging reading.
Charlotte County children ended up reading 7,719 books through the program this summer.
“It’s exciting. This is not a school responsibility solely, it’s not a nonprofit responsibility solely. It’s our responsibility as a community to embrace the joys of reading,” Matthiessen said.
The United Way is also in the process of developing and strengthening collaborations that will benefit children for years to come, including the Literacy Buddy program which just started in late April.
Volunteers are paired with students and communicate via letters three times a year. Through the correspondence, children request books or topics they would like to read about.
It’s about allowing the child to have writing and reading skills and encouraging them to read the books that they will enjoy,” Matthiessen said.
Currently more than 50 children are enrolled in the program.
The nonprofit is also hoping to partner with more local businesses to help get “books everywhere,” according to Matthiessen.
“We have been asking businesses to have baskets of books where, if a kid comes in, they can take one home with them.”
So far, there are 35 baskets at participating businesses, including Harbor Nissan, Waterside Dental, Charlotte Animal Hospital and numerous pediatricians’ offices.
“By joining the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Charlotte County is showing a strong commitment to greater outcomes,” Duda said.
Talks of bringing the program to DeSoto County are also ongoing.