Third-grade reading proficiency is a critical issue for our state. The Campaign and its four-pillar agenda help to break the work down into actionable steps so that, together, we can address this issue. Each community has unique strengths and challenges and can use the Campaign’s data tools to understand how all in the community can play a role in supporting children on the path to third-grade reading proficiency.”

Ellyn Cochran, Associate Vice President, Early Learning and Development

United Way of Greater Atlanta (UWGA) brings together people and resources to tackle complex issues and drive sustainable positive change in ways that enable communities to thrive. Ensuring that all children receive a high-quality education beginning at birth is a central part of their work in metro Atlanta and across Georgia. The four pillars of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign provide a powerful framework for doing that.

Through the Strong Learners investment portfolio area, UWGA invests in systems change efforts that advance the four pillars statewide. With a clear understanding of the roles and resources each sector brings to the table, United Way invests in five strategies connected to the pillars that offer the highest potential to improve third-grade reading in communities with low child well-being scores:

  • Increase access to early learning by ensuring more young children have quality learning experiences at home, at quality early childhood providers, and in the community;
  • Build reading skills by expanding literacy-focused resources at after-school and summer enrichment programs while also engaging more community volunteers as tutors;
  • Increase health care navigation by providing support for families to navigate untreated critical health conditions, mental health challenges, and other family health issues that get in the way of school attendance;
  • Secure housing and basic needs by ensuring children and their families have the food, shelter, transportation, and technology that are fundamental to achieving educational outcomes, healthy lives, and reaching economic stability; and
  • Strengthen family engagement by fostering the natural leadership that parents have as their children’s first teacher, brain builder, advocate, and coach.

In addition to supporting regional and statewide systems efforts across these strategies and direct service grantees within the 13-county metro area, UWGA serves as an incubator for programs and strategies supporting children and families. As a member of the United Way learning network, it shares what it is learning with other United Ways in Georgia and draws on their successes to inform its efforts.

UWGA provides Third Grade Reading Community Awards to local coalitions and helps inform their efforts by providing access to key data points through its online Child Well-being Index.

United Way funds Learning Spaces, a community-based strategy designed to meet the developmental needs of young children and support the families, friends, or neighbors who care for them in nontraditional places such as libraries and apartment complexes, promoting Language Nutrition and increasing access to early learning and developmental screenings and referrals.

The Early Learning Teacher Career Pathway training program is an innovative 10-day work readiness program specifically designed to recruit and instruct adults in how children, birth to 5, develop and learn, and how to support their developmental needs in a child care program.

Through investments and training in Fostering Family Leaders, UWGA ensures grantees have resources and tools to support families of young children in understanding and supporting early childhood development and serving as advocates for their children as they prepare to enter school. And after learning about United Way of Central Georgia’s successful implementation of the AARP Experience Corps model, UWGA recently began supporting replication of this approach in DeKalb County, connecting trained reading mentors with struggling readers.

To learn more about UWGA, visit their website.

How are the children? Ellyn Cochran says all Get Georgia Reading Campaign communities need to rethink this question when assessing children’s well being.