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United Way of Lake County celebrates 10 years of Reading Success program

Judge Veronica M. O’Malley works with students during a Reading Success program session in Waukegan.
Judge Veronica M. O’Malley works with students during a Reading Success program session in Waukegan.

United Way of Lake County is proud to announce the 10-year anniversary of its Reading Success program.

The program helps build literary skills to ensure children are able to read at grade level by the end of third grade. Reading Success targets first through third grade students testing in the 20% to 40% percentile in their class for reading and comprehension.

Research shows that most students who are not proficient readers by fourth grade will continue to remain behind throughout their educational career.

United Way brings trained volunteer reading tutors into Waukegan Public Schools weekly to tutor students, giving them individualized help to develop reading skills and improve performance. 

Lake County judges have participated in the Reading Success program since it began at North Elementary School 10 years ago. They started as a team of four judges and have now grown to a team of 14.

“I have always believed being able to read well allows a person to take control of their life and be a self-reliant, informed citizen,” said Judge Luis A. Berrones, 19th Judicial Circuit Court. “Not being able to read or not being able to read well deprives a person from being truly independent.”

The most recent Reading Success results demonstrate that first-grade students in the program improved 33% more than their non-tutored peers at the same reading level.

“My students who participate in the Reading Success program always make substantial growth from fall to spring,” said Jennifer Chang, a North Elementary first grade teacher. “Not only does their reading get better, but they thrive from the extra attention, which boosts their self-confidence.” 

Diane E. Winter, chief judge of the 19th Judicial Circuit Court, has been a volunteer Reading Success tutor for five years.

“Judges are charged with giving back to the community and modeling for students how to be good citizens,” Winter said. “Even though we only read for a half hour each week with the students, we see so much improvement from the beginning of the year, when they can barely recognize sight words, to the end of the year, when they are reading confidently and really enjoying the stories. It’s very gratifying for all of us.”

To date, Reading Success has helped more than 1,200 at-risk Waukegan students with low literacy skills get on track to become proficient readers.

For more information, visit www.LIVEUNITEDlakecounty.org/readingsuccess.

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