Mother learning with daughter

Who to Engage

Family hiking
Girl Reading Alone – landscape cut 1
Boy smiling

The key community stakeholders to engage in early grade reading fall primarily into these categories: 

  • Organizations and institutions including cultural institutions (libraries, museums, etc.), community-based organizations and agencies, businesses and funders, local/state government, schools and school districts. Each of these types of organizations/institutions has a perspective to share that is relevant and is based on how they connect to the issue. Local businesses want a qualified future workforce and to increase or sustain the productivity of workers they already employ. Their input will likely reflect their interest in supporting strategies that help educate workers and boost graduation and college-going rates. Local school district leaders want to improve student academic achievement and increase high school graduation rates and to improve their scores on end-of-grade tests in third grade and national reading tests conducted in fourth grade. Also, the children who are identified as struggling readers will be the students at risk of academic failure and the ones who need targeted supports and interventions. Literacy coalitions and libraries are also critical partners and may have curricula, books, volunteers and expertise to offer.
  • Parents and families are equally important to engage. Families of young children may not know how to support pre-literacy skills. Many families don’t know how to spot signs of reading problems or know that reading well by third grade is such a critical benchmark, but all families will want to see their young children build the skills they need to succeed and will benefit from parent engagement and outreach strategies designed to bolster parent-school-community partnerships. (Resource: Harvard Family Research Project’s Family Engagement for High School Success Toolkit)
  • Engaging a broad swath of community residents can also serve as a natural point from which to build and/or strengthen a volunteer base that can be tapped to help struggling readers in and out of the classroom. Seniors, especially retired teachers are a good example of the types of individuals that might raise their hands to volunteer in reading programs. 
  • Individuals - including youth, parents and families, volunteers, etc. Although institutions and organizations are an essential part of any early age reading coalition, your United Way must go beyond this outreach and engage individuals in your community, especially those that are likely to directly benefit from early grade reading initiatives.
  • The input and perspective of older youth is especially critical since they can be effective volunteer readers for younger children and can help adults make sure reading initiatives are accessible to children of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

Here is a checklist you can use to think about reaching out to key education stakeholders: Finding Allies for Early Grade Reading.

Mother and daughter smiling