Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the many inequities surrounding early childhood education. In Maricopa County, hundreds of thousands of children were forced to transition to learning from home without the proper technology and resources to succeed. Fortunately, Read On Avondale and Read On Phoenix were there to help.
Facilitated by Valley of the Sun United Way, Read On Avondale, and its counterpart, Read On Phoenix, provided children and their families the right tools and support they needed to succeed in school despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. The Read On programs quickly transitioned to virtual programming, distributed laptops and hotspots, and offered IT support to families in need. Both were recently recognized by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) as BrightSpot Communities for their outstanding work.
The Campaign recognizes communities across the nation for crafting solutions that are especially effective, worthy of replication and which deserve to be sustained. Valley of the Sun United Way also was recognized for our heavy investment in our efforts to improve grade-level reading.
Dawn Gerundo, community development director - education at Valley of the Sun United Way and facilitator at Read On Avondale, said United Way partners responded quickly to the unprecedented circumstances brought by COVID-19.
“Together, we kept families engaged through virtual platforms and connected with donated internet hot spots. All professional development continued but was quickly shifted from in-person to webinars or pre-recorded sessions,” she said. “We consistently kept websites updated with COVID resources, and many programs hosted Facebook Live or Zoom sessions for children and families.”
Tim Valencia, facilitator at Read On Phoenix and youth and education program manager at City of Phoenix, said the honor could not have been achieved without the hard work of community partners who came together.
“Our partners helped mitigate learning loss by closing the digital divide by providing over 10,000 laptops to families and quickly shifting to virtual programming to meet the needs of our community. Our partners also worked together to build educator capacity in the science of literacy through professional development to further expand evidence-based strategies,” he said.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. CGLR represents 45 states and more than 200 local United Way funding partners. In Arizona, our statewide effort is lead through Read On Arizona.
“We applaud the civic leaders and local funders whose time, talent, energy and imagination allowed them to quickly adapt and meet this moment. They truly are ‘bright spots’ and we congratulate them for the differences they’re making. We look forward to learning from their success as we move onto a post-COVID learning environment,” says Ralph Smith, managing director of CGLR.