United Way’s ‘United for Literacy’ Initiative Aims to Boost Winnebago County’s Literacy Rate

United Way of Rock River Valley has joined forces with nearly 30 local organizations, including 13 that have already received funding, to introduce ‘United for Literacy.’ This initiative adopts research-backed strategies to address the challenge of Winnebago County’s low literacy rate, currently standing at a mere 32%, equating to 1 in 3 children. ‘United for Literacy’ sets an ambitious objective: to elevate Winnebago County’s literacy rate from 32% to 75% by 2034.

The impact of this initiative will be felt by numerous children and their families in Winnebago County. It will bring together collaborative and interconnected programs and resources. These include providing books and literacy kits to new families at SwedishAmerican and Mercyhealth, recruiting and retaining tutors at the Boys & Girls Club of Rockford, installing book vending machines at Crusader Clinic, offering various reading and school readiness programs at local churches, Discovery Center, Patriots Gateway Center, Rockford Park District, the Rockford and Cherry Valley public libraries, and much more.

Julie Bosma, President and CEO of United Way, emphasized the critical role of literacy and reading skills in children’s success. She stated, “Literacy and the ability to read are the cornerstones of children’s success, propelling them toward prosperous adulthood. By establishing ‘United for Literacy’ in collaboration with numerous remarkable organizations and partners, we are equipping the community with the tools and resources needed to create a community filled with avid readers. This, in turn, translates into a thriving and prosperous community as a whole.”

Lynn Stainbrook, Executive Director of Rockford Public Library, highlighted the importance of parents and caregivers as the first teachers for children. She mentioned, “This new literacy initiative and funding are instrumental in training professionals in the community in early literacy development. It provides a wealth of resources to assist parents and caregivers in teaching young ones everything they need to know to become proficient readers.”

The efforts of ‘United for Literacy’ have already commenced. With funding from United Way, Patriots Gateway collaborated with a literacy expert to pilot techniques and teaching methods to enhance their summer programming. These enhancements will continue during the school year in their after-school programs. Rockford Park District utilized the funding to supply books to children in programs at eight parks, as well as Lewis Lemon and Haskell grade schools during the summer.

These initiatives will continue to evolve and expand in the coming months and years. United Way and its partners will closely monitor these programs to assess their effectiveness. They will make strategic, measurable adjustments to ensure that the community’s children receive the necessary support and resources to excel in school and in life.

‘United for Literacy’ partner organizations

  • Alignment Rockford*
  • Blackhawk Day Care
  • Brooke Road United Methodist Church*
  • Cherry Valley Library*
  • Circles of Learning
  • City of Rockford
  • Discovery Center*
  • Durand Charm*
  • Easter Seals
  • Harlem School District*
  • Head Start*
  • Junior League*
  • Literacy Council
  • Milestone
  • Patriots Gateway Community Center*
  • Pilgrim Baptist Church*
  • Rockford Boys & Girls Club*
  • Rockford Public Library*
  • Rockford Public Schools
  • Rockford Rotary
  • Severson Dells
  • St. Rita Catholic School
  • SwedishAmerican Hospital
  • Trinity Day Care
  • United Way of Rock River Valley
  • Winnebago County Health Department
  • YMCA of Rock River Valley
  • YWCA of Northwestern Illinois*

*Notes funded agencies through ‘United for Literacy.’