Laying the Groundwork: “Literacy for Life” Strong reading skills are the cornerstone to long-term educational success. As the basic, fundamental building block to learning, reading can be a determining factor in a student’s overall ability to succeed and ensure that they will be ready to enter the workforce upon graduation. Yet, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 13 percent of adults in the Commonwealth lack basic literacy skills. On a national level, one in four children grow up without learning how to read, and 19 percent of high school graduates can’t read. In fact, according to the National Commission on Writing, the private sector spends an estimated $3.1 billion each year to improve the literacy skills of entry-level workers. The United Way of the Capital Region is working to address this problem by helping children in Central Pennsylvania develop strong reading habits. The PA Chamber is proud to partner with the UWCR on this initiative. Last year, PA Chamber employees who are members of the UWCR’s Women’s Leadership Network and Bridges Society assembled 90 literacy kits for local students to help prevent the ‘summer slide’ during the summer recess. Building on that effort, PA Chamber employees Jennifer Reis and Chardan Huston participated in the UWCR’s annual “Literacy for Life” event at the Barnes & Noble store in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania this past February. Sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the event partnered volunteers with third grade students from Harrisburg School District’s Downey Elementary School for a morning focused on the joys of reading. The teams participated in a book S scavenger hunt throughout the store. Each child was given a $15 gift certificate to purchase a book or books that coordinated with their respective reading level. The volunteers helped their student choose a new book to take home, and spent time reading with them. “It amazes me how children view the world around them and take everything in like sponges,” Huston said. “Fostering environments and activities such as these demonstrate that if we give children just a moment of our time and encourage them to be their best selves, there is no telling where that inspiration may lead them.” Studies have shown that placing an emphasis on reading at an early age can help increase a child’s verbal, written and even math skills. Additionally, according to PDE, research has found that “children growing up in homes with at least 20 books benefit from three more years of education than children from bookless homes.” “A love of reading can open so many doors and can put a child on the path to success,” said Reis. “This event placed an emphasis on how reading can be both fun and educational. It was wonderful to talk to the children about their individual interests and discuss how books can serve as a gateway to learning more about the particular topic. Watching the students get so excited about books and learning was inspiring.”
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