A child who starts behind, stays behind and may never graduate from high school. ReadingPals, a United Way of Central Florida initiative, helps students establish a foundation for reading by improving vocabulary, listening skills, comprehension and visual and auditory memory.

Research shows that students working with ReadingPals are promoted more frequently and score higher on standardized tests than similar students who have not had this special opportunity. Just an hour a week can make a big difference for struggling children. Sign up to be a ReadingPals volunteer today.

Since 2012, ReadingPals has been funded by Carol and Barney Barnett. Starting with 10 regions, they are now funding ReadingPals initiatives at 15 United Way’s across the state.
With the success of UWCF’s ReadingPals, the Children’s Movement Board of Directors asked us to present, and share our successes, at their statewide annual meeting held at the Heart of Florida UW office this past month.
The focus areas included:
  • Recruitment/training of volunteers (200 active for the full year – this earned UWCF RPs a $10k bonus this year!)
  • Volunteer retention (An average of 48% of the RPs return for another year across the state. 69% of our ReadingPals are returning this year!)
  • # of hours students spent with a trusted mentor/tutor (we lead the state – almost 300 K-garten children spent 19-25+ hours with their RP. More than 100 kids had 25+ hours.)
  • Measureable results – K-garten students in 57 classrooms who spent 25+ hours with a ReadingPal were promoted at a higher rate and earned higher report card grades in reading than a control group of statistically similar children with no ReadingPal.

We also added some stories about the kids we serve (funny and heartbreaking) and awarded Wesley Barnett his lanyard with his gold star for completing his first year as a stellar ReadingPal. He plans to continue being a ReadingPal this year. He shared a little about his “wild” kids with obvious affection.

ReadingPals are in 12 Polk County schools and 2 Highlands County schools. To learn more, contact Sylvia Palmer, United Way of Central Florida ReadingPals Program Manager, 863-648-1500 x278 or email, or visit our website at