Muskegon, Muskegon County's online magazine

March is Reading Month!


Reading is the foundation of education. Did you know that the reason we measure reading proficiency at third grade is because until that year students are learning to read and after that year students are reading to learn?

It is critical for our young learners to have a solid foundation in reading, in order to be successful in all of their classes and beyond. Navigating a daily schedule is easier with good reading skills. We read throughout the day, from the moment we wake up until the minute our head hits the pillow. We read medicine bottles, street signs, restaurant menus, memos from colleagues, postings on the bulletin board at home and work, school work, the newspaper, bedtime stories.

Help for ALICE. Improving literacy skills among the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) households will enable us to meet our bold goal to see 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025. Research reveals that literacy and education are foundations for a successful path in life.

To assist in that pathway for our youngest learners, we invite you to celebrate March is Reading Month with us to close the literacy gap in our community through giving, advocating, or volunteering to support this important work. Donate at Through March, your donation will be generously matched by NICHOLS, up to $25,000. Thank you from our youngest readers!

United Way of the Lakeshore is proud to support and partner with agencies that support programs to strengthen reading skills in our community, from our littlest learners to adults. These programs include the Dolly Parton Imagination Library; Read Early Read Often; Retired and Senior Volunteer Program; Reading Corps; and Read Muskegon. Read on for a snapshot of each program.

Muskegon, Muskegon County's online magazine

Chris Burnaw says she reads to her kids because reading together is great family time!

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school. Having access to books is something many families may take for granted. But in many parts of our community, it’s not so easy.

In 2014, gifts from generous donors allowed United Way of the Lakeshore to bring Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to Muskegon County. This community-based program provides children (ages birth through five) with free home-delivered books, and parents and caregivers with literacy resources, each month. The Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library continues to be supported by donors interested in helping get our children started on the right path to educational success and a lifelong love of reading. The cost in our community per year per child is $25. Through this program, more than 2,200 young readers now have their own home libraries in Muskegon County. To register a child, visit

Muskegon, Muskegon County's online magazine

Allison Keessen reads to kids at United Way of the Lakeshore's Dolly Parton's Imagination Library event.

“I heard about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library from Baker College of Muskegon. I think it is great to get parents involved and I have always read to my daughter. Books are expensive and this is a great resource. I am looking forward to signing up my baby.” — Julia, Muskegon, one daughter three and a half years old and expecting a second child.

Read Early Read Often. Research shows that children who are read to hear as many as thirty million more words than children who aren’t read to. Young children who are read to are almost twice as likely to receive top reading scores, and those with the highest exposure to reading at home have advantages in spelling and alphabet knowledge through third grade.

Read Early. Read Often. is a countywide effort to urge parents, siblings, grand parents and community members to read to infants and toddlers. Reading every day, everything, every where will lead to success in school and in life.

Business, agency, education, library, media, faith, medical, government, and community partners have come together to spread the word about the importance of reading to children from birth. You can help spread the Read early. Read often. mission by posting a picture of you reading to a baby or toddler on the Read early. Read often. Facebook page and sharing it with your friends!

For more information visit or contact Allison Keessen, Read Early. Read Often. Coordinator at (231) 767-7285.

Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. As part of the National Senior Corps, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) is America’s largest volunteer network for people 55 and older. RSVP has operated in Muskegon for decades. They serve through 20 partnerships in the focus areas of early literacy, health, and cultural heritage. Through their tutoring in classrooms, libraries and after-school programs, they are making a difference for local children. For more information about RSVP and to be a literacy tutor see, or feel free to call La Tonya Beene, Senior Corps Director, RSVP, at (231) 332-4018.

Reading Corps. Michigan Education Corps works with students age three through grade three, ensuring each one has a chance to succeed. Their goal is to help every Michigan child become proficient by the end of third grade, through tutors using proven research-based instruction and practice to help struggling students reach their potential. Students in the program receive one-on-one tutoring in their own school, five days per week, over the course of the school year. Tutors identify each child’s challenges and create a specific tutoring schedule to help them catch up to their peers.

To get students back on track, the Michigan Education Corps partners with AmeriCorps members — individuals on the front lines of the work. More than tutors, these members become role models and trustworthy friends.

Do you want to make a difference in the lives of students in your own school district? Consider becoming a Literacy Tutor with the Michigan Education Corps, helping students become even better readers. They are accepting tutors who can make an everyday commitment; tutors are paid for their time and are provided with the support and training they need to be successful. The program follows the school calendar. Learn more at If you have questions, you can also call Karen Renkema at (616) 915-1165. 

Read Muskegon. One in six adults in the United States is functionally illiterate, reading at or below the 4th grade level. In Muskegon County, that translates to more than 21,000 adults. The adverse effects of illiteracy are felt in our economic, education, criminal justice, and healthcare systems. Read Muskegon is breaking the generational cycle of illiteracy by providing customized programs that meet the unique needs of our learners and building community partnerships to maximize our impact.

Muskegon, Muskegon County's online magazine

Read Muskegon literacy events involve families working together on reading skills.

Read Muskegon has several approaches to addressing adult illiteracy.

• Standardized Tutor Training: they led the way in the creation of a comprehensive, research based training for literacy tutors now being used in many West Michigan counties. They train and manage a pool of highly trained tutors and provide them with individualized support, allowing each learner to receive personalized instruction.

• Literacy Labs: they are developing a drop-in literacy support service that will be placed in facilities throughout our community, including serving students at adult education facilities and parents at public schools and Head Start centers.

• Family Literacy: partnerships with several local agencies provide early-literacy training and literacy support to parents with young children.

Read Muskegon also links literacy to life skills through the EXIT Class, for incarcerated men, usually fathers; the West MI Works! Class, for parents currently enrolled in the PATH program at MI Works; and classes at the Muskegon County Jail for both men and women. These classes focus on family literacy, workplace literacy, and functional literacy (things like lease agreements, applications, credit cards, etc.)

To learn more about Read Muskegon, including how to get involved, visit their website at

United Way of the Lakeshore is uniting to inspire change and build thriving communities. Our Bold Goal – 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025. For more information, contact United Way of the Lakeshore at (231) 722-3134. Learn more about United Way of the Lakeshore at, like the organization on Facebook and receive up to date information from Twitter at

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