Over 800 Quad Cities residents have stepped up to help address a decline in reading proficiency in area kids, but more help is still needed.

United Way Quad Cities kicked off their Read United Program last year and they need another 200 volunteers to support local elementary schools and readers who are at risk of falling further behind. Anyone who is interested in becoming a reading volunteer can sign up for 30-minute weekly reading sessions with a student here. Volunteers can choose from 26 participating schools in Scott and Rock Island counties and volunteer for a time during school hours that fits in with their schedules. New volunteers are strongly encouraged to sign up by March 10 to meet the needs of schools and support students through the end of the school year.

“In early 2022, we were worried. As a result of the COVID learning disruption, reading proficiency rates had fallen from about two-thirds of third-grade students reading on grade level to 30%,” said Angela Snyder, United Way Quad Cities Chief Strategy Officer. “But the fact is, more than 875 caring people — over 500 in the first six months of the program — have made time from their busy schedules to meet with a student and help them grow. Words cannot describe how proud that makes me for the Quad Cities.”

The program focuses on students who are in third grade and younger. Kids are recommended by teachers, who are in the best position to determine which students would benefit the most from additional one-on-one reading support. The results are nothing short of amazing; after Read United’s spring 2022 session, 92% of students who participated in the program improved their reading proficiency levels.

“We’ve made progress as a community, bucking national trends of decreased volunteerism,” Snyder said. “But any student unable to read on grade level is concerning, and we have a way to go to give students and schools the support they need.”

Anyone can volunteer, if they are at least 18 years of age, can pass a background check and complete a 30-minute virtual training session. Click here to register, click the “volunteer” button and choose a city to find options for a day, time, and location that works with your schedule. For more information, click here or contact United Way Quad Cities’ Community Impact Associate Traci Oberhaus at toberhaus@unitedwayqc.org or (563) 344-0331.