March 1 is Read Across America Day!

Educators and policymakers of all stripes will be donning their Cat-in-the-Hat hats this week and reading to young children to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday. United Way, in our partnership with the National Education Association and teachers everywhere, is proud to celebrate Read Across America Day on March 1. It’s a fun way to celebrate books and reading, but our commitment to early literacy must be sustained every day of the year.

Across the country, two-thirds of our 3rd graders aren’t reading on grade level, which means they’re four times as likely to drop out of high school later on. And the outlook is even worse for disadvantaged students. A staggering 83% of 4th graders from low-income families don’t read on grade level.

We all want opportunity for our children. But kids who don’t read well by 3rd or 4th grade tend to fall farther behind, as they start reading to learn. Too many check out, drop out and fail to reach their potential. It’s no exaggeration to say that helping kids read well can help us close achievement gaps, increase graduation rates, support our local economy and build a strong community.

Families, schools and communities have to work together. We have the power to change our nation’s future if we work together to help struggling readers in elementary school. Teachers can’t do it alone. Families may not know exactly what to do to help their child read, or to spot a reading problem early on.

At United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley, we have several programs that promote early learning and literacy – Early Readers pairs volunteers with classrooms as readers, Launching a Learner empowers parents to become key partners in learning success, and Thrive in 5 is Boston’s mission to ensure that all children have the opportunities and support they need for success in school and beyond.

There are opportunities for you to get involved in any one of these programs, and there are things you can do in any interaction with children to encourage reading.You can read out loud to your child, or grandchild, tonight.

You can volunteer to read to kids in your local child care center, or elementary school, next week. You can volunteer as a tutor or mentor, or donate books to your local library or after school program. Take action. Because change doesn’t happen without you.

Pledge to volunteer as a reader, tutor, or mentor: