Volunteers Rev Up Love of Reading in Early Learners

It started with a volunteer. United Way of Western Connecticut former board member Sandy Rankin has contributed so much of her time and talent to our region, but her greatest accomplishment lands in the smallest hands.

Sandy was the leading force in establishing Ready, Set Let’s Read, and remains one of its most active volunteers and advocates. Ready, Set Let’s Read connects volunteer readers to preschool classrooms to increase literacy and school readiness. Her passion for the program comes from her own upbringing in a family of readers.

“I just started thinking about all the kids that didn’t have that opportunity,” she said. “How can we help the kids succeed who were not as fortunate as I was?”

Ready, Set Let’s Read is designed around the knowledge that reading to children is the basic and best way to set the stage for school readiness. Ed Advance helps prioritize the classrooms most in need of volunteers. With more volunteers, Ready, Set Let’s Read can cover more classrooms. A long-term goal for this volunteer-driven program is to cover every preschool classroom in the city.

“The results of many studies on school achievement have shown the importance of good preschools, engaging with and talking to young children, and reading to them,” Ready, Set Let’s Read volunteer Gigi Christel said.

“Other studies have shown that Connecticut has the largest achievement gap between financially stable and financially insecure children. I find this disheartening and appalling,” she continued. “I've witnessed first hand the joy that Ready, Set, Let's Read brings to both the children and the readers. The children love having another consistent adult in their lives and hearing the wonderful stories that are read to them, and the adults really enjoy passing along their passion for reading."

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