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SAVANNAH, GA (Nov. 15, 2023) – United Way of the Coastal Empire is proud to announce a powerful new program in its year-round series of initiatives designed to improve literacy. Just launched in partnership with the Rotary Club of Savannah and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System, “Read United Buddies” is a volunteer-based, structured reading tutoring program that focuses on building a connection with second-grade students and helping the students become fluent readers.

Through this pilot program, volunteers work with select second-grade students at Otis Brock and Windsor Forest elementary schools for 30 minutes twice a week. The program launched in October, and volunteers will meet with their assigned students throughout the school year. The school system’s literacy specialists trained volunteers in preparation for the program’s start. Each was also required to clear the background check performed by the public schools.

According to the Georgia Board of Education, only 56% of Chatham County’s second graders read on grade level. Programs like Read United Buddies have been shown to increase reading proficiency in other communities by as much as 30%. This is critical as students should be shifting from learning to read to reading to learn by the end of the third grade. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, students who are not proficient in reading by the end of the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.

“People make this progress possible! Read United Buddies would not have happened right now without the leadership of Eddie DeLoach, president of the Rotary Club of Savannah, Terri O’Neill, the club’s secretary and director of the Savannah Classical Academy Foundation, Barry Lollis, president of Savannah Classical Academy, and our own Cheri Dean, vice president of direct services and impact,” said Brynn Grant, president and CEO of the United Way of the Coastal Empire. “And we cannot say enough about the leadership and cooperation of our partners at the Savannah Chatham County Public School System. We look forward to a long and growing partnership.”

“Read United Buddies” is part of United Way of the Coastal Empire’s READ UNITED initiative. which is a year-round series of programs aimed at improving early language and literacy for all children throughout Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties.

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