United Way gives books to Dunkirk children

The United Way of Northern Chautauqua County set out to keep young minds sharp and spread awareness of its mission with its Day of Action.

United Way employees and volunteers visited each of Dunkirk’s elementary schools recently to distribute books for the students to read over the summer holiday.

Ed Hazen, Dunkirk’s director of English as a second language and secondary education and UWNCC Board’s vice president of finance, addressed the kindergarten through third grade students at Schools 3,4,5 and 7.

“You have learned about communities in Social Studies, can anyone tell me what a community is?” Hazen asked.

In each school, students raised their hands to answer. Hazen explained a community is a group of people, that can be family, friends, neighbors, churches or even schools. He continued, the United Way is an organization that helps give back to the community, which was also the purpose of the Day of Action.

The United Way’s Day of Action has been held annually, on June 21, since 2008 as a way for United Ways to engage the community in a way that ties back to its national and local goals of “Education, Income, and Health.” This year’s focus was on literacy and most importantly early grade literacy and the effects of summer learning loss.

“Our goal in giving each child a book was to encourage them to continue reading over the summer,” UWNCC Administrative Assistant Patti Fickelscherer explained.

UWNCC Executive Director Deborah Tederous explained it is very important for children to read over the summer.

“According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, children can lose the equivalent of two to three months of reading skills over the summer. Fourth grade reading proficiency is a national United Way initiative and we chose to make that our focus for Day of Action by looking at what we could do to help combat summer learning loss,” she explained.

Age-appropriate books were set out for students to select on a range of subjects from science to scary stories and colors to playing in mud.

Each student selected a book and many thanked volunteers for the gift.

“It was amazing to see the children’s excitement on receiving a new book for the summer. A lot of the children were extremely thankful,” UWNCC community member volunteer RuthAnn Rocque said.

Many of the students could not wait for summer to start to begin reading.

The United Way was able to distribute 608 books to students through Scholastic’s Literacy Partnerships Program.

“United Ways have a wonderful partnership with Scholastic Books and this gave the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County staff, board members and community volunteers the opportunity to hand out books to the kindergarten through third-grade school children at all the Dunkirk Elementary Schools,” Tederous explained.

She added, this year’s event has inspired ideas for next year.

“I think next year we will ask students to do a book exchange, so when one student is done reading a book, they can share it with a classmate who has not read that book. It will be like receiving two or three new books to read. We also would like to get the Dunkirk Free Library involved to sign students up for library cards,” she said.

The Day of Action replaced the Community Caring Week previously held by the United Way of Northern Chautauqua County. UWNCC also has several events planned for the summer including the First Annual Charity Golf Classic on Aug. 25 and the Tour D’Vine Bike Rally on Sept. 20. For more information, go to www.unitedwayncc.org or call 366-5424.