The United Way wants to close COVID-related gaps in youth literacy by connecting another 200 Quad Cities students with volunteers for one-on-one weekly reading sessions during the summer. To date, United Way’s Read United QC initiative has paired 450 students in preschool through third grade with reading volunteers since the community-wide awareness and action campaign started in February.

The initiative is partnering with school districts in Rock Island and Scott Counties to help struggling readers to get the skills they need to succeed in school and life. United Way hopes to recruit enough volunteers by June 13 to meet the needs of school districts during the summer months.

“Reading proficiency is one of the greatest predictors of a child’s success in school and life,” said Rene Gellerman, President and CEO of United Way Quad Cities. “450 Quad Citizens have committed to give one-on-one attention to students ‘on the bubble’ so that they may be on course for a better life. This makes me so proud of our community and grateful to our neighbors and business partners who are investing time and resources to help our kids thrive.”

Students reading on grade level at third grade are five times more likely to graduate from high school, paving the way to higher education, better opportunities in the workforce and improved health outcomes. In recent assessments available since the start of the pandemic, local studies found just 30% of third-grade students are meeting grade-level proficiency performance. It should be noted that 30% of regional third graders did not report test scores for 2020-21, compared to only 7% in 2018-19. This number contrasts with the 61% of local third graders reading on grade level before the pandemic.

Read United works by pairing adult volunteers with pre-kindergarten through third-grade students to read together for 30 minutes a week throughout the school year or summer.

The summer session includes shortened five-week reading opportunities and extended summer sessions, starting June 13. One-on-one reading sessions take place weekdays during the daytime at select schools and childcare centers in Rock Island and Scott counties. So far, about 650 students have been referred to the program by teachers and care providers at over two dozen partner locations, including Spring Forward locations, Hand-in-Hand in Davenport and several elementary schools in Rock Island and East Moline.

Anyone can volunteer, as long as they are at least 18, pass a background check and complete about one hour of training held virtually. To volunteer, click here and choose a day, time and location that works best with your schedule. For more information, click here or contact United Way Operations Assistant Amy Daniels with any questions at or 563-344-0344.