Since 2008, Reading Champions has delivered consistent early literacy support with the largest volunteer driven program in town with 120+ volunteers in 11 schools and four after-school programs reaching 400+ students.
The Greenwich United Way will host a Reading Champions Open House for the community on September 28, 12:30-2:30pm at Town Hall. This event will focus on the latest research in early literacy and how volunteerism plays a vital role in helping young readers achieve success. The open house will feature engaging discussion with early education experts and the opportunity to welcome new and returning volunteers to the Reading Champions team.
Kimberley Paladino, Literacy Coordinator for grades K-8 across the entire Greenwich Public School District, will discuss the importance and success of Reading Champions throughout all 11 Greenwich public elementary schools. The program will also feature Dr. Annie George-Puskar, Assistant Professor, Curriculum and Teaching at Fordham University. Dr. George-Puskar is an early childhood learning specialist focused on early intervention and instruction and serves as the Co-Chair and Program Coordinator for the Innovation in Curriculum & Instruction PhD Program at Fordham.
“Greenwich Public Schools is incredibly excited to have Reading Champions volunteers continue to work in all our elementary schools in the 2023-2024 school year,” said Paladino. “For more than a decade, they have been unwaveringly committed to support GPS students in attaining important reading fluency skills while building a positive connection. Our dynamic volunteer partnership creates powerful relationships in a wonderful community atmosphere between GPS, Reading Champions volunteers, students, and families.”“The volunteers for the Reading Champions program make an impact that goes beyond this school year. When students receive support in literacy it can positively impact their math, science, social and behavioral skills,” said Dr. George-Puskar. “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic skills remains a prevalent area to be explored, but the dedication of the Reading Champions volunteers with their dedication to the literacy instruction certainly helps off-set any disparities and academic achievement gaps.”
Open house participants will learn about the methods proven effective in advancing fluency and motivating young readers as well as the collective impact of Greenwich United Way’s Reading Champions and how to become actively involved. The second portion of the event will be devoted to new volunteer training and orientation.
Reading Champions began in 2008 with a pilot program at North Mianus School with eight reading tutors trained by literacy specialists to work with 24 students in first and second grade. Today, Reading Champions reaches more than 400 students annually with more than 120 trained volunteers working in all 11 Greenwich public elementary schools and four after-school programs – Greenwich Boys & Girls Club, BANC at New Lebanon School, YWCA and YMCA, which will be added this year. The program anticipates the participation of approximately 500 students during the 2023-2024 school year.
“Reading Champions exemplifies the mission of the Greenwich United Way to find it and fix it. As a committed partner to GPS for 16 years, we receive guidance from the district in how to provide consistent support for young readers who can benefit from the extra attention,” said Cecile Meunier, program manager of the Greenwich United Way. “This incredible program brings together literacy specialists with dedicated volunteers who are trained to provide reading support, fostering literacy skills and a love of learning in their students.”
Reading Champions volunteers enjoy a mutually fulfilling experience and receive training and orientation. They are supported by dedicated on-site teams and GPS literacy specialists. Committed to its valuable volunteer team, Greenwich United Way hosts events throughout the year to nurture volunteer skillsets and honor their work.
“Being a Reading Champions tutor is a truly enriching personal experience,” said volunteer Patricia Santonocito, who has served for 10 years. “The opportunity to foster the desire and ability to read is a joy and impacting a child's development and confidence is astonishing. Most importantly, Reading Champions students benefit from and enjoy the experience. It’s a win-win for both tutor and child.”
Since its inception, Reading Champions has positively impacted the lives and strengthened the academic confidence of more than 5,000 students. The program will expand this summer to provide year-round support, enabling students to compound their progress and meet grade standards before the upcoming academic year.
To learn more about the impact of Reading Champions, visit https://greenwichunitedway.org/reading-champions/. Prospective volunteers interested in participating can fill out an application at
About Greenwich United Way
The Greenwich United Way (GUW) shares a name with approximately 1,200 other similar organizations across the nation, although the Greenwich, Connecticut division is a privately incorporated, locally governed, nonprofit agency. As a volunteer-driven organization, the Greenwich United Way exists to help identify and address the health, educational and self-sufficiency needs specific to its local community and to create and affect meaningful, lasting solutions. Through various fundraising efforts and ongoing research, the organization is able to directly grant the funds necessary to accomplish this goal. The Greenwich United Way also invests in and conducts collaborative efforts to address broad-based community needs with partnering nonprofit agencies. For more information, visit https://greenwichunitedway.org, or follow us on Instagram and Facebook.