Home Education Change the World for A Child in 45 Minutes a Week

Change the World for A Child in 45 Minutes a Week

Local nonprofit ReadyKids! is celebrating a significant milestone this year.

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Through their Pre-K mentoring program, ReadingPals, they have successfully matched 100% of eligible pre-kindergarten students with volunteer mentors, just in time for National Volunteer Month, which runs throughout April. This year, the ReadingPals program is offered in 14 classrooms across seven Title I elementary schools, with 220 children receiving one-to-one support from a dedicated mentor. This achievement exemplifies ReadyKids!’ commitment to preparing Escambia County children for day one of kindergarten and beyond.

“This is our second year in a row to achieve a 100% match rate, which is a huge win for our local Pre-K students,” says Kristy Craig, Executive Director of ReadyKids!. “This milestone reflects the dedication of our volunteers and the impact of our program on the lives of these children. We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to succeed, and through ReadingPals, we are helping to lay the foundation for their future success.”

ReadingPal volunteers commit to being paired with a student from a high-need prekindergarten class, dedicating themselves to weekly 45-minute sessions. These sessions occur in a designated space overseen by ReadyKids! staff, specifically the Site Coordinator. Site Coordinators play a crucial role in ensuring volunteers are trained and have undergone a Level II background check through the school district. They create an environment that is clean, encouraging, and inviting, fostering creativity and instilling an early love for learning among the students. The impact of Site Coordinators is particularly profound as they assist mentors in identifying activities that target a child’s specific academic needs, and they cultivate authentic relationships with each mentor, enriching the overall experience.

The ReadingPals program originated in Escambia County in 2010 and later expanded across the state thanks to oversight from The Children’s Movement of Florida and funding from Publix Super Markets Charities. There are now 15 ReadingPals programs operating throughout Florida, collectively benefiting over 1,000 children annually. While ReadyKids! may represent one of the smaller regions, they continue to exceed goals and pave the way for new programs.

In Escambia County, ReadingPal mentors engage directly with high-need prekindergarten students to enhance early-literacy and social-emotional skills that are crucial for kindergarten readiness. The program’s one-to-one mentoring model allows for personalized attention, tailored support, and genuine connections – all of which allow the ReadingPal to focus exclusively on the academic and social-emotional needs of the individual child.

Beyond academics, ReadingPal mentors serve as personal champions for their matched students. By providing consistent encouragement and support, students are able to build self-expression and trust in the world around them. Furthermore, the mentoring model is structured in a way that encourages students to choose which activities they work on each session, promoting positive decision-making skills, independence, and creative thinking.

Additionally, students in the ReadingPals program receive new books monthly to build their home libraries, learning bags over winter and summer break to maintain learning during extended periods out of school, at-home learning resources for their family unit, and support for their classroom based on needs expressed by their teachers.

Multi-year ReadingPal, Sigrid Rehrig, shares that her reason for being a ReadingPal is connected to the long-term impact, stating, “Being a better reader means setting kids up for success and giving them access to resources and knowledge for life. In turn, it means a stronger community, improved local economy, happier people, and a healthier environment. Everything is connected!” As to what she loves most, Sigrid shares, “It’s really fun to find your own dynamic with each student and develop special memories together. It is so rewarding watching them gain skills and confidence over the course of the year and seeing the moment when something just clicks.”

Indeed, ReadingPals is making a significant impact for children in Escambia County. For more information about ReadyKids! and how you can get involved, visit ReadyKidsFL.org. You can change the world for one child in as little as 45 minutes a week.

Kristy Craig, Executive Director, ReadyKids! Contact: 850-380-3652 or Kristy@ReadyKidsFL.org

*Note from Local Pulse Editor: Kristy Craig is a part of our Community Voices series. Community Voices is a group of Pensacola dwellers that are making a difference in our city by sharing best practices, experiences, their perspective on impactful subjects, and contributing expertise that leads to movement forward for a stronger community.