Connect the Dots: Reading for Community Success

Kandice RileyConnecting the Dots, Education

connect the dots logo with a heading that reads "episode 6: reading for community success"

In this month’s edition of Connect the Dots, United Way of the Ozarks and our partners discuss why developing reading skills at a young age is fundamental to a person’s success in school, work, and life. In the U.S., children who read proficiently by third grade are more likely to graduate high school. Other benefits stack up over time: students who graduate high school are more likely to stay out of the justice system, find jobs with livable wages, live longer lives, and have children who also graduate on time. Watch this month’s episode to learn how our community’s ability to read affects your family, your neighbors, and even your wallet–and what you can do to help.

Ready to join us in the fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in the Ozarks? You can change a life (or many lives!) by giving, advocating, and volunteering to support literacy programs in our community.


When you donate to United Way of the Ozarks, you are directly addressing our community’s most pressing issues. Our volunteers decide how to direct funding so that each year, we are funding the most impactful programs. Without our donors, none of these initiatives would be possible. Your financial support makes a big difference, especially as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Showing your support can also extend beyond financial donations.  You can be an advocate for literacy in our community by:

  • Getting a library card and getting involved with our wonderful Springfield-Greene County Libraries.
  • Reading to your children, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren to instill a love of reading early in life.
  • Gifting books when it’s time for birthdays and holidays. Our United Way team likes to order books from our neighborhood bookstore, Pagination Bookshop on Walnut Street, so that we can support a local business.
  • Donating your gently used books to United Way’s Little Free Library. Contact us to schedule a drop-off time.

Volunteering is one of the most impactful things you can do to support your neighbors. Our partners provide opportunities to read with and tutor students and adults alike. Many programs ask for only 30 minutes a week, either in-person or online. Here are some volunteer opportunities with our United Way partner organizations and past grant recipients:

  • Ozarks Literacy Council – Tutoring Students or Reading to Preschoolers
    • Contact: (417) 616-0505 or [email protected]
    • Remote and in-person opportunities available
    • Time commitment: Minimum 1 hour per week
    • Details: Tutors help improve reading, writing, and comprehension skills for child and adult students by meeting students at their level and working alongside them. Tutors help students persevere and learn the power of literacy. Volunteers may also read to preschool classrooms 4 times during the school year to foster a love of reading. OLC will be focusing on classroom reading in the 2021-22 school year. They are seeking reading volunteers to share a book with a class at least once a month, all grades up to fifth. Focus schools will be Williams, Westport, McGregor, York, and Weaver. These schools were chosen because over 90% of the students receive free or reduced lunch and up to 80% of the third graders are reading at or below the state standard.
  • RSVP Reading Buddies with Council of Churches of the Ozarks
    • Contact: 417-831-9696 or [email protected]
    • In-person opportunities available
    • Time commitment: 30 minutes per week tutoring one student for several weeks
    • Details: The purpose of the Reading Buddy Program is to utilize reading and relationships to equip children with the tools necessary to be successful in school and life. The Reading Buddy Program utilizes adult volunteers age 55+ to serve pre-K through 3rd-grade students.  Volunteers provide students a positive adult role model, prepare preschool children for kindergarten through appropriate social and emotional skills, and tutor children to read at grade-level by the end of third grade.
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield Learning Center
    • Contact: Jeff Long
    • In-person opportunities available
    • Time commitment: Requires a minimum commitment of 40 volunteer hours
    • Details: Volunteers work with members in Learning Centers to assist with overall academic support as well as specific skills and enrichment activities. Opportunities to work in specific areas such as creative writing or life skills are available.
  • Grupo Latinoamericano – English Instruction
    • Contact: Yolanda Lorge at (417) 886-1348
    • In-person opportunities available
    • Details: Volunteers provide English language lessons, tutoring, and immigration documentation support to students learning to adapt to a new country and new customs. Volunteers who are bilingual in English and Spanish are preferred, but it is not required. Grupo Latinoamericano also provides Spanish lessons to English speakers.
  • Ozarks Technical Community College – Adult Education
    • Contact: (417) 447-8865 or [email protected]
    • In-person opportunities available
    • Time commitment: Recommend at least 6-month commitment
    • Details: Volunteers assist instructors with preparing adult students for the High School Equivalency test (HiSet) in the areas of math, language arts, or reading. Volunteers may also work with students learning English as a Second Language.

Promoting literacy in our community protects and advances not only our local workforce and economy but human rights on a large scale. Thank you for choosing to LIVE UNITED to help every person in our community thrive! Sign up for our monthly newsletters here to stay connected to the work United Way of the Ozarks is doing to make a difference in our community.