(Ft Walton Beach – May 25, 2018) – The United Way of Okaloosa and Walton Counties is proud to announce that it has received a “Reading Pals” grant to provide mentorship and reading assistance to children in Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) classrooms.

“Reading Pals is an incredible opportunity for our community to rally around children at the most-critical time for reading comprehension that ultimately could determine their ultimate success in school,” said Rick Owen, President and CEO of the United Way.  “Our United Way’s mission is to respond to the greatest needs in Okaloosa and Walton Counties.  This program will play an integral role in this mission.”

Research shows reading aloud to children can help them develop into strong readers. Being a strong reader also improves students’ on-time grade promotion and increases high school graduation rates. This grant will help defray the costs of promotion, materials, and background checks for more than 200 volunteers who will read to at least 400 children VPK centers. Enrollment in the “Reading Pals” is voluntary for parents and permission slips will be distributed to targeted VPK areas before commencement of the program.
The “Reading Pals” program is administered through a partnership with the Early Learning Coalition of the Emerald Coast and the various VPK Centers across Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Anyone interested in learning more about “Reading Pals” should visit: http://childrensmovementflorida.org/whatwesupport/mentoring/

Volunteer coordination is being performed in collaboration with the “Women United” affinity group.  If you are interested in volunteering to be a mentor and “Reading Pal,” or if interested in joining “Women United”, please contact the United Way office at 243-0315 or via email: admin@united-way.org.