Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. But with more than 1.2 million children dropping out each year, America faces an education crisis. The cost? More than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. These trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.
WHY IS EARLY LITERACY CRITICAL?
When children are born, they all have the potential to succeed in school and in life. But at some point, their circumstances will affect the opportunities they have and, ultimately, their chances in life. While many children have the support they need to get started on the right foot, prepared for school and ready to succeed, not all children are as fortunate. Too many children live in an environment that isn’t preparing them for a bright future. Brought on by their circumstances, the barriers they face shadow their belief in themselves and what they are capable of.
Most Americans wrongly believe that it is OK for children to enter school without basic literacy skills because they assume they will catch up. The reality is, 88 percent of first graders who are reading below grade level will continue to read below grade level in fourth grade.
Fourth graders who struggle to read are four times more likely to drop out of school as compared to proficient readers.
THE HIGH COST OF FALLING BEHIND
When students drop out of high school, it’s at great cost to themselves and our community. The student will likely not have the same career opportunities, and research shows that those without a high school diploma will earn 75 percent less than their peer that graduated. The social implications of a student dropping out are far-reaching, beyond any one student or any one family. Communities with higher dropout rates have more crime and poverty and less social and economic stability. The number of high school students who graduate impacts our entire community from our businesses, schools, and local government, to each of us as individuals.
UNITED WAY OF SLO COUNTY WORKS TO BREAK THE CYCLE
United Way is committed to help change these conditions by leading a comprehensive approach to improving early literacy in our region. United Way is launching our Early Literacy Initiative, bringing together the resources and the expertise necessary for real progress. Through partnerships and collaboration, United Way is uniquely positioned to lead an innovative, comprehensive approach to early literacy and deliver at a county-wide level. With the objective of sharing and reinforcing proven literacy development techniques, our vision for a successful, regional early literacy initiative requires a multi-prong approach. The Early Literacy Initiative will make a lasting change because it helps children build the necessary reading skills through parental engagement, volunteer mobilization, caregiver support, and community awareness.
Early Literacy to ensure children surpass key school readiness and early grade-level reading benchmarks (ages 0 – 12)
Youth Success to help ensure children graduate high school with the skills necessary to pursue postsecondary education or vocational training (ages 13 – 18)
UNITED WAY EDUCATION PROGRAMS
United Way of SLO County also directly manages specific programs to assist caregivers, providers, and community supports to help children in SLO County succeed:
Born Learning Academy
The United Way Born Learning Academy teaches parents, teachers and caregivers of children how to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities. United Way strives to meet parents where they are. That’s the philosophy of the United Way Born Learning initiative, which has helped more than 15 million parents understand how to use everyday moments as learning moments. More than 600 United Ways and partner organizations have used Born Learning’s materials to help parents, families and caregivers to promote school readiness and literacy, and to enlist business leaders and decision makers in the cause.
The United Way Born Learning Academy uses the best of those proven tips, tools and resources to help families take a more active role in preparing their children for kindergarten. These free work- shops are for parents and caregivers of children, from birth to age five. For United Ways, it’s a low- cost investment in family engagement and school readiness, without having to create a new curriculum. Wherever you are in your early education work, United Way Born Learning Academy can add momentum, help leverage partnerships and deep- en your community impact work.
Through a series of six to twelve workshops held in local schools, the Born Learning Academy provides families and caregivers with practical, user-friendly ideas to turn everyday activities into learning moments. The Born Learning Academy can do more than strengthen your community’s school readiness efforts—it can also help your school partners engage families before kids start kindergarten. Founded on an evidence-based curriculum established by early childhood faculty at Northern Kentucky University, the workshops are led by trained professionals—usually teachers, principals or other education staff—and focus on the following topics:
This year's program paired volunteer readers to elementary school students inSan Luis Coastal Unified School District. More than 65 volunteer readers selected and purchased a grade-level book from a book list prepared by school librarians then read the book(s) to students in their school libraries to help celebrate "Día", a national library program that fosters literacy for all children from all backgrounds. Día, also known as El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day) is a commitment to include and celebrate all cultures through literacy. After reading was done, the book was donated to the school library, with a sticker on the inside cover with the name of the donor! United Way proudly partners with Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo to implement this program and has plans to expand to more school districts and schools next year.
United Way is currently seeking partners to help bring Vello to local schools. We are in the development and planning stages and are so excited to launch this tutoring program in support of Youth Success!
Vello Tutoring for the 21st Century. Ready, set, read?
Vello is the innovative, 1:1 tutoring program from United Way that matches tutor teams with local classrooms for guided reading support. Vello mobilizes passionate professionals to tutor students in reading through a safe and secure digital setting. Together, students and tutors read e-books using super simple screen sharing and audio.
Watch this video to learn how Vello can soar!
Every child in need of extra reading support will have a team of United Way volunteers invested in their success. We succeed together!
Since we started the Imagination Library program in SLO County, more than 12,000 books have been mailed to local children!
Each child enrolled in the program receives a new, age-appropriate book every month from enrollment through five years of age. From their first book, “The Little Engine That Could”, through the last book of the series, “Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come,” all books are reviewed and selected by a panel of experts.
With United Way covering the cost of enrollment for many children, Imagination Library is especially valuable to low-income families who may find books to be an unaffordable luxury. However, the number of children we can enroll is determined by the amount of generous donations we receive. We enroll new children through a referral partnership with SLO County Department of Social Services.
Your donation to Imagination Library helps give the gift of literacy to local children. $50 will enroll a child for one year, and $250 enrolls them from birth until their 5th birthday! Will you help sponsor a child for the Imagination Library program?
One year enrollment = $50 Two year enrollment = $100 Three year enrollment = $150 Four year enrollment = $200 Five year enrollment = $250
To make a general donation toward the program, please visit our donation page or call us at (805) 541-1234.
In August each year, United Way of SLO County partners with 5 local school districts and businesses to Stuff the Bus, where there's a school bus parked in the business's parking lot over 3-4 days so that community members can buy school supplies to donate to students in need. The donations are collected, sorted, counted and boxed on each bus by more than 100 community volunteers. We also offer local businesses the opportunity to be "School Supply Donation Sites" where the businesses offer donation drop off sites to their employees and some even accept donations from the public. This important program helps parents with the cost of sending a child back to school each year. In 2018 United Way of SLO County collected over $34,000 in school supplies!
Families are significant contributors to the school supply stockpile in most schools. According to the 2018 National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, families with elementary, middle, and high school children will spend a total of $27.5 billion or an average of $685 per household to ready their kiddos for the new school year. Well over half of their spending will be for clothing and shoes. The remainder will be spent on electronics and supplies.
The United Way of San Luis Obispo County Youth Board is a unique volunteer experience that gives youth the control and responsibility of their projects. Up to thirty-five students serve as a United Way Youth Board of Directors and are given the opportunity to make a direct impact on their peers by addressing the needs of their community and awarding grants to local organizations. Each month, students from across the county meet to learn about SLO County and discuss community issues. At the end of the year, the board awards at least three $1,000 grants to local organizations that are making a difference. Members of the Youth Board represent the youth of the community, connect with community leaders and provide feedback about youth issues. They also participate in United Way projects and events, manage fundraising campaigns, and learn about the community and other local nonprofit organizations. Participating students are required to commit to at least one full term (September through June), and may miss up to FOUR meetings. Call (805) 541-1234 for more information.
2018-2019 Youth Board
Youth Board would like to THANK our primary sponsor,
High school dropouts are 12 years in the making, usually starting early childhood education behind schedule. United Way focuses on supportive communities, effective schools and strong families — strategies and approaches rooted in research. Tackling the education challenge requires reframing education on a birth to 21 continuum.
How you can help
To reach our goal, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect communities to their schools: parent involvement; literacy volunteers in the classroom; mentors for disadvantaged students; business leaders engaged in early childhood advocacy. Learn more about UWSLOC's programs in education: