Note to readers: Every Friday during the fundraising campaign, the Times will be featuring submitted profiles of the agencies who receive support from the United Way of Crookston. Today's featured program is United4Learning.

    The United Way of Crookston has supported the United4Learning program by dedicating funding to serve students in grades K-6 in an after school reading program at Washington and Highland Elementary Schools.  
    The goal of United4Learning is to build literacy skills with students by giving them the “gift of time” to develop those skills that will help them become successful readers and thinkers.    

    In recent years, fall assessment data indicated that 50% of our kindergarten students were entering school in need of systematic early reading intervention.  Research shows that the best way for students to “catch up” is through quality instruction in greater quantity.  Students who enter first grade, three years below grade level, need one hour of extra reading instruction, per day, in each of their first, second, and third grade years, to “catch up” by third grade.  If they do not “catch up” by third grade, a high percentage of these students never do.    

    The United Way of Crookston has given many students in Crookston the “gift of time” through the United4Learning program.  Students who attend this program receive instruction in fluency, comprehension, decoding skills and recognition of basic sight words.  Last year, 75% of the first graders at Washington School who attended United4Learning started the school year in need of reading intervention but by spring were meeting or exceeding grade level expectations.  Recently, Highland School was recognized as a “Celebration Eligible” school for student growth in reading.      

    Success in reading was the intended goal of United4Learning but the results of this program go beyond reading instruction.  It was reported by a parent that her daughter never liked to read but with the guidance of teachers and instructional aides at United4Learning, her daughter gained the confidence to become a good reader.  Some research shows confidence is linked to academic success and is an important goal of United4Learning.  Washington and Highland Schools also noticed improved attendance and a decrease in behavior reports, in those students who were part of the program.

    Washington and Highland Schools recently received funding from the United Way of Crookston to continue United4Learning.  The funding will give teachers the resources to help students achieve and parents the hope that their children can become successful readers.  It truly “takes a village to raise a child” and through United4Learning…together we can make a difference!