Reading is fundamental to learning. Just ask 7-year-old Shanicka, a second grader who dreams of becoming a chef of “fancy food” when she grows up. Before working in the Y’s afterschool reading program, she didn’t really like to read. But after working with her volunteer literacy coach, she now realizes that being able to read is a life necessity.

The YMCA Reads! Project began in 2005 to help kids like Shanicka. A $1.5 million grant from the Florida Department of Education to the Florida State Alliance of YMCAs enables volunteers to work on literacy skills with at-risk K-3rd grade students. 

During the 2009-10 school year, 12 Ys partnered with 18 elementary schools throughout Florida to offer students YMCA Reads! Each participating child receives a one-hour, one-on-one session at least twice a week with a trained mentor.

The program is making a significant difference in kids’ reading skills.

Each year, program assessments show improvements. This year, though, the children’s reading levels were assessed at the beginning and throughout the program using the Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (FAIR) test.

Results of the 2009-10 program show that students participating in YMCA Reads! showed significant improvements in reading skills and grades. In fact, the program is successful in meeting The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida’s 46 needs of the children it served. Additionally, qualitative data reflects everyone involved in the program – Y staff, volunteers, teachers, parents and kids – believe the program is making a difference in students’ academic success.

This news is encouraging. And it means we’ll continue increasing the number of program volunteers, providing them with the most effective literacy trainings, and working with teachers and family members to constantly improve the program

For more information about the YMCA Reads! program, click here.