Did you know that 90% of a child’s brain development happens by age 5? In those early years, relationships and experiences drive brain development. Our cognitive, social-emotional, physical and other skills are all built on this foundation. Parents, who are a child’s first teacher, can lay the cornerstone for lifelong success.
That’s why United Way and our volunteers are working to make sure families are able to give their children a strong start. The United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley is helping to roll out the Talking Is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing campaign around Allentown, Pennsylvania. United Way volunteers are equipping the places families frequent – like grocery stores, doctor’s offices, health clinics, barber/beauty shops and libraries – with information and materials about how talking, reading and singing can build literacy proficiency.
At the next stage of life, United Way of Porter County’s KinderCamps prepare 4- and 5-year-olds for kindergarten. This summer, about 200 children in Valparaiso, Indiana learned their ABC’s, basic reading and writing skills, and practiced IRL activities like riding a bus and standing in line. Volunteers are critical to this work, too, as they help teachers in the classroom and work one-on-one with children in the camp.
When those kindergartners are a little older, they’ll get help from their United Way Reading Buddies: stuffed animals that help motivate first- and second-graders to read. Jointly run by United Way of Porter County and Lake Area United Way, the Reading Buddies program provides almost 4,000 stuffed animals to classrooms across Northwest Indiana every year. Since 2003, volunteers from businesses, churches, book clubs, boards, schools and other organizations run stuffed animal drives every year, and then sort, tag and deliver the Buddies.
It’s not just adults who are helping out. One young girl launched a Reading Buddies collection drive on her own, donating the stuffed animals to fellow young readers in her community. Bailly Elementary School second-graders made and sold some 3,000 chocolate-covered pretzels to support the Reading Buddies program.