A program that started in Liberty County 15 years ago, has now grown and expanded into two other counties.
According to United Way of the Coastal Empire CEO Brynn Grant their newly named Read United program, held Dec. 1, was originally known as Read Across Liberty an initiative that serviced students only within Liberty County and Fort Stewart for the past 15 years.
However, Grant said due to the generosity of presenting sponsor, Vaden Nissan Hinesville, and an increase in funding from an anonymous donor and the Landings support of military children, allowed the program to expand.
“We are now able to service students throughout 24 schools in Bryan, Effingham, and Liberty county,” Grant said. “This year more than 7,500 books have been distributed to children, ranging from Pre-K to first grade. Children also have access to our online readings, provided by our volunteers.”
Vaden Automotive group Owner Jane Vaden Thatcher said her company was thrilled to be a long-time sponsor of the Read United program.
“At Vaden, one of the causes we feel passionately about is education,” Vaden Thatcher said. “We support education in all the communities we do business. Reading in particular…I was an English Major and grew up loving to read and read to my children when they were little. You can see what it does. It changes how kids look at learning and how they look at schools. It is rewarding. It is a great opportunity to take a great program and expand it to other counties where they can take home books.”
“We are really excited about putting books in the hands of children because literacy is truly one of the most important things affecting children today,” Grant added. “It is vitally important to their success later in life.”
Vaden Thatcher said being able to read books to the kids in school is typically the best part but understood the pandemic meant they had to be safe.
“We were able to read books virtually and be recorded and those recordings will be disseminated,” she said. “Not as much fun for us...but I think we will be back to that next year. At least I hope so.”
Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry thanked those responsible for making Read United a reality this year.
“Thank you for what you’ve done in the past with United Way and what you are doing now with Read United and what you will be doing in our future,” he said.
The Read United Program aims to promote early childhood literacy, while celebrating the joy of reading. In partnership with Vaden Nissan Hinesville, United Way of the Coastal Empire is closing the literacy gap that exists within low-income households. Various local schools, businesses, and volunteers are working together as a community to induce a quality education for children throughout the region.
According to the United Way of the Coastal Empire, in the state of Georgia, 66 percent of children are below reading level.