United Way launches ‘United for Literacy,’ a new collaborative effort to improve the literacy rate in Winnebago County

United Way of Rock River Valley has partnered with nearly 30 local organizations, including 13 who have already received funds, to launch ‘United for Literacy,’ an initiative that is using research-based strategies to tackle Winnebago County’s low literacy rate, which currently sits at just 32% or 1 in 3 children. The bold goal of ‘United for Literacy’ is to increase the literacy rate in Winnebago County from 32% to 75% by 2034.

The initiative will impact thousands of children and their families in Winnebago County with collaborative and connected programs and resources that include books and literacy kits for newborn families at SwedishAmerican and Mercyhealth, the recruitment and retention of tutors at Boys & Girls Club of Rockford, the addition of book vending machines at Crusader Clinic, 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.

“Literacy and the ability to read is the foundation for children’s success. We have found that this foundational skill catapults them into successful adulthood,” said Julie Bosma, President and CEO of United Way. “By creating ‘United for Literacy’ with so many incredible organizations and partners, we are providing the tools and resources to create a community full of readers, which in turn means a successful and thriving community as a whole.”United for Literacy

“We at Rockford Public Library have long understood the value of parents and caregivers serving as children’s first teachers,” said Lynn Stainbrook, Executive Director, Rockford Public Library. “This new literacy initiative and funding helps train professionals in the community about early literacy development and offer countless resources which effectively help these parents and caregivers teach little ones all they need to learn in order to help them learn to read.”

The work of ‘United for Literacy’ has already begun. With United Way funding, Patriots Gateway worked with a literacy professional to pilot techniques and teaching methods to enhance their programming this summer, which will continue during the school year with their after-school programming. Rockford Park District used the funding to provide books for kids in programs at eight parks and Lewis Lemon and Haskell grade schools over the summer.

These efforts will continue to develop and grow in the months and years to come. United Way and its collaborators will monitor these programs to identify what is working and what is not. We will make changes using a strategic, measurable approach to ensure our community’s children get the support and resources they need to succeed in school and beyond.

‘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.’