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Using  volunteerism to improve literacy

UW-Green Bay Literacy Initiative
UW-Green Bay is launching a new literacy program to meet regional needs and address community challenges. UW-Green Bay photo

By Press Times staff

GREEN BAY –  UW-Green Bay is launching a new literacy program to meet regional needs and address community challenges.

The UW-Green Bay Literacy Initiative combines volunteerism and entertainment to improve literacy rates in the area.

“The new reading-focused program wil provide much needed hours of volunteer reading time to area first-through-third graders in an intentional effort to boost literacy rates across the region,” a program release stated.

“Working with several school districts and other community organizations, UW-Green Bay identified specific ongoing volunteer reading opportunities across the region. The Howard-Suamico, Pulaski Community and Sheboygan Area School Districts, as well as the McKinley Academy Virtual School in Manitowoc, are the first to sign on to be a part of the reading initiative.

“In addition to identifying volunteer opportunities, the university created a free-to-all online prep course for volunteers interested in joining the charge.”

 “This is the first of many steps that we as a university need to take to improve the literacy rates in our region,” said University of Wisconsin – Green Bay Chancellor Michael Alexander.

Recent data shows a 14% decrease in reading proficiency in 2020-21, with only 27% of Brown County students meeting third-grade reading proficiency targets.

 UW-Green Bay Education Assitant Professors Samantha Meister and Cory Mathieu developed the Reading Mentor Prep course to educate others on best practices for shaping a child’s love of reading.

“The free, online course is self-paced and gives volunteers strategies for engaging and supporting children in reading, and helps them feel more confident as they read with children,” the release explained.

“While volunteers are not required to take the prep course, it is encouraged to maximize the effectiveness of the time spent volunteering.”

“Reading with children is more than just opening a book. This course provides adults with a variety of strategies they can use to help children practice their literacy skills as they read together,” Meister stated.

“We hope this course will be a valuable resource for not only reading volunteers but anyone who has opportunities to read with kids: childcare providers, parents and caregivers, community programming educators and more,” Mathieu added.

Studies show that literacy is a key factor in academic success, social mobility and economic wellbeing. UW-Green Bay’s Literacy Initiative not only demonstrates a commitment to the community, but also helps to ensure a more equitable future for all children by helping them have the confidence to read.

“We must continue to partner with our local communities and school districts to positively affect change and help our students rise together through reading,” said Alexander. “Our priorities as a university include supporting student success for all students, making education more inclusive, and being community-engaged to solve problems for our region.  This is why we must be part of the solution to help inspire students to start well in school and enjoy learning throughout their lives.”

For more information, visit www.uwgb.edu/chancellor/literacy.

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