International Literacy Day
Saturday, September 8 is International Literacy Day, which marks the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights. Across the globe, literacy is not only key to lifelong success, but also a precursor for people’s ability to vote, advocate for change, and fully participate in society.
In the U.S., research shows that children who read proficiently by third grade are more likely to graduate high school. In Tennessee, only 35% of third-grade students are proficient (or better) in reading according to the Tennessee Department of Education.
The benefits of literacy stack up over time: students who graduate high school are better able stay out of the justice system, find jobs with livable wages, live longer lives, and have children who also graduate on time. In other words, literacy protects and advances our individual and collective wellbeing.
United Way of Williamson County (UWWC) understands the intricacy of literacy and how it’s weaved into every facet of life. Literacy impacts the livelihood of our neighbors and friends; it’s connected to our ability to achieve optimal health, a good education, and financial stability.
This is why we strongly support and advocate for education programs. In 2012, we launched the Raise Your Hand (RYH) Tutoring Program to help students with low reading skills. Over the years, RYH has helped over 1,700 students—from 1st to 4th grade—improve their reading proficiencies.
“Raise Your Hand allows us to intervene and equip students with reading tools during a critical stage of their development,” say Sonya Johnson, our RYH program manager.
Sonya recruits, trains, and assigns volunteer tutors to 12 elementary schools in Williamson County. Volunteers commit to at least one tutoring session per week, assisting teachers with reading assignments and tutoring students individually or in small groups. 93% of RYH participants increased their reading scores during the 2017-2018 school year.
Both Williamson County Schools and Franklin Special School District are comprised of well-funded, functioning schools; however, it takes entire communities to support children from birth through high school. Families, teachers, early care providers, volunteers, government officials, business leaders, and community members all have roles to play.
You can help advance literacy rates in Tennessee by volunteering to read with and tutor students and adults alike. For example, the Adult Learning Center, a UWWC partner program, assists adults with improving literacy skills. Reach out to us whenever you’re ready! We’ll be happy to help you get involved.
Original article by Mei Cobb, United Way Worldwide