United Way and Center For Family Services Help Camden Children

Born to Read program promotes parent involvement, early literacy, and grade-level reading success
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Camden, N.J. – It’s that time of year! Back-to-school season is right around the corner, and Head Start preschoolers throughout the county are on track to start the new school year off right, thanks to a partnership between Center For Family Services (CFS) and United  Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) in Camden County.

On Tuesday, August 20, 2013, CFS and UWGPSNJ in Camden County distributed 80 backpacks filled with age-appropriate books  to Head Start students in Camden City. The books, provided courtesy of BookMates, a program that  promotes literacy and helps young children become independent readers, will encourage parents to read at home with their children. Combined with additional distributions throughout the County, a total of 1,000 preschoolers were presented with new bags, just in time to head back to the classroom.

“It’s a team effort to get children ready for school and on track for kindergarten readiness,” said Head Start parent Carl Boyd.  “These supply and book donations really help our families in making reading part of the routine at home.”

The backpack and book giveaway is part of a large-scale collaborative called Born to Read. Led by CFS and UWGPSNJ in Camden County, Born to Read aims to increase the number of Camden children reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade.  This supply and book donation serves as a starting point to better engage caregivers and promote an early love of learning.

“Learning to read is the most essential skill for future academic success, and we are committed to equipping children and families with the tools they need to build literacy skills, prepare for kindergarten and get on-track for grade level-reading,” said Merilee Rutolo, Center For Family Services Vice President/Head Start Director.

In addition to helping develop literacy skills, Born to Read also increases children’s exposure to books and encourages greater parental involvement in children’s learning. “Reading at home is a key area that we stress with all of our families,” said Rutolo. “We work with parents to be their child’s first and best teacher because we know that children are more likely to read proficiently and achieve academically when their parents are actively engaged in their learning and reading with them one-on-one.”

In fact, grade-level reading proficiency is a leading indicator of long-term academic success.  Yet nationwide,  two-thirds of all children –  and fourth-fifths of poor children –  are not reading at grade level by the time they complete third grade, according to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.  Additionally, an alarming 74 percent of students who fail to read proficiently by the end of third grade falter in later grades and often drop out of high school.

“That’s where our partnership with Center For Family Services comes in – through Born to Read, we are taking proactive steps to change these odds and set children up for a lifetime of learning,” said Mike Moynihan, Executive Director of UWGPSNJ in Camden County. “We are providing young learners with the books and resources that they need to learn successfully, both inside the classroom and at home – and that is driving measurable, lasting impact that will benefit these students and our community for years to come.”

Born to Read also includes a high-impact volunteer component that pairs trained volunteers with children ages 4 to 8 for one-to-one classroom-based reading. For more information on Born to Read or to volunteer, please contact Jen Hammill at 856-964-1900, ext. 129


About Center For Family Services
Center For Family Services is a non-profit organization providing a comprehensive continuum of care through more than 60 programs designed to help individuals lead capable, responsible, fulfilled lives in strong families and healthy communities. The mission of Center For Family Services is to support and empower individuals, families, and communities to achieve a better life through vision, hope, and strength. For more information visit www.centerffs.org

About United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey 
United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New jersey, serving communities in Pennsylvania’s Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, and New Jersey’s Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May and Cumberland counties, is part of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities of a national network of more than 1,300 locally governed organizations that work to create lasting positive changes in communities and in people’s lives. United Way engages the community to identify the underlying causes of the most significant local issues, develops strategies and pulls together financial and human resources to address them, and measures the results. United Way is advancing the common good in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey by positively impacting the lives of people throughout the region in the areas of education, income, and health.

About Born to Read
Born to Read is a grade level reading initiative focused on raising literacy levels in Camden City. Center For Family Services and United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey in Camden County are leading this collaborative effort to ensure more Camden children are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. With a focus on raising expectations, increasing exposure to books, ensuring kindergarten readiness, encouraging parent involvement, improving attendance rates, and reducing summer learning loss, Born to Read aims to set children on a path toward grade-level reading success.