Newsroom

The Greater Austin Reading Coalition: First year, big impact!

Earlier this year, we announced our expansion beyond early childhood education and into the K-12 space, with an initial focus on bringing together a diverse coalition of literacy advocates to increase the number of children reading on grade level by the 4th grade — a pivotal point in a child’s reading development. Convened by United Way for Greater Austin as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition has been hard at work over the past year and has already made a huge impact in the lives of local children. We’re excited to continue to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into building a coalition to create equitable systems changes in our community.  We all know that a good story highlights the who, what, where, when, why, and how. But, these are also critical questions and factors that we engage with in our systems change work. Today we’re going to look at “the what” and “the how.” Throughout 2021, what work has the Greater Austin Reading Coalition engaged in, and how is it impacting local children?  In addition to building a strategic plan and laying the foundation for the coalition’s future work, we have been hard at work distributing culturally-relevant books. Just this year, together with our partners, we have gotten more than 50,000 books into the hands of young readers!  It’s important that children have access to books. Not only do they expand a child’s world, but are critical tools in […]

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Black Pearl Books and the Greater Austin Reading Coalition: Getting culturally-relevant books in the hands of young readers

The current reality in our community is that only three in 10 children from families with low income pass their 3rd grade reading STAAR test.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we believe that reading is a crucial, foundational skill. That’s why we lead a local movement — the Greater Austin Reading Coalition — to ensure that ALL children are reading on grade level by the 4th grade, which is a pivotal point in a child’s reading development.  Launched in 2021, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition is a diverse group of nonprofit and community leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents. The coalition is convened by United Way as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty. In just our first year, together with our coalition members, we have gotten more than 50,000 books in the hands of young readers across our community! One member that has been instrumental in making this possible is Black Pearl Books. Owned and operated by Katrina Brooks, Black Pearl Books is an indie, Black-owned bookstore in Austin with a mission to promote diversity, inclusion, equality, cultural awareness, and community through literature. This mission is what drove Katrina to join the Greater Austin Reading Coalition, as one of the coalition’s goals is to increase access to culturally-relevant books for children. “Having culturally-relevant books available to children is a necessity to get them to read on grade level.”  – Katrina Brooks  Culturally-relevant books are titles that illustrate the beautiful diversity of our community. It’s important for […]

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Family Resource Fair: A family-friendly event offering free books, rent assistance, and more

The pandemic put a long pause on in-person events, attributing to fewer families receiving the resources they need for their little ones. These in-person events allow parents to feel heard and supported, ultimately encouraging engagement in their child’s development.  With vaccine rates rising, and in-person learning back in place, United Way and Austin ISD partnered to bring back the Family Resource Fair for a second time. On Saturday, November 13, the Family Resource Fair took place at Uphaus Early Childhood Center in south Austin. Families in the surrounding area were invited to an outdoor event offering resources like ECE/ESL registration, rent assistance programs, parenting groups, career services, camps, and more.  A special thank you to our partners for coming out and supporting families and children.  Have questions about participating in the next Family Resource Fair? Contact Martina Santesteban at Martina.Santesteban@uwatx.org.

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Sponsor an early childhood education center!

This holiday season we’re inviting you to be a champion of cheer to spread a little extra joy! We’re bringing together our friends and neighbors to spread good tidings through special holiday care packages for our early childhood education centers – who have been resilient through the pandemic, caring for and teaching our youngest Austinites.  Will you  be a champion of cheer for our community by building care packages with us this holiday season?   Child development centers like Bright Beginnings and directors like Patsy make learning exciting for children and they are the reason we’re celebrating this year. The human spirit is resilient, and our child development centers continue to prepare our youngest Austinites for success!  Each holiday care package will include: 1 Yeti coffee mug Coffee shop gift card   3-5 children’s books Check out our volunteer website for all the details, including shopping lists, delivery details, and more! Want more information before signing up? See our FAQ. Have additional questions about this opportunity? Please email our volunteer team at Volunteer@uwatx.org. Happy holidays from the United Way team. We look forward to making the season brighter with you!  

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Expanding Opportunity for Young Families helps parenting students advance their careers

Meet Katie Gonzalez, a parent of six young kids. As one of 34 parents in our Expanding Opportunities for Young Families pilot program, Katie recently earned a phlebotomy certificate from Austin Community College, advancing her career opportunities while also receiving access to vital wrap-around services for her family. Expanding Opportunity for Young Families (EOYF) is a collaborative community program coordinated by United Way for Greater Austin that helps parents overcome barriers to completing their degree, such as challenges finding child care and financial pressures. The program, which takes a 2-Gen approach of serving parents and children simultaneously, works to increase young parents’ successful academic enrollment and completion so they can access middle-skill jobs.  The goal of the program is to increase the financial stability of young parents age 18-29 while improving the well-being of their children. Together with local community partner organizations, young parents from our Link Up Austin group are co-leaders of this work to advance the well-being and economic mobility of their families and the community. Katie says participating in the program allowed her to support herself financially while studying to achieve her dream role as a phlebotomist. “It’s a good opportunity for a lot of families,” she said. “Especially those who are in need and are wanting to go back to school and get educated, so they can have a career for themselves, their kids and their families.” How it works United Way partners with Workforce Solutions (WFS) Capital Area, Central Texas Allied Health Institute (CTAHI), Skillpoint […]

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Announcing $21,000 to 4 Nonprofits: Supporting Children in Their First 2,000 Days of Life

This summer, United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $112,000 in one-time grant funding to 23 qualified community organizations delivering effective programs and services that advance the goals of the community coalitions we convene as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin we’re working hard alongside our community partners to ensure that all children in Austin/Travis County enter Kindergarten happy, healthy, and prepared to succeed in school and beyond. That’s why we lead the Austin/Travis-County Success By 6 Coalition (SX6), a community-wide collaboration of child and family advocates – providers, parents, policymakers, civic leaders, and experts – with a shared goal to ensure every child born in the Austin area receives the support and care they deserve during their essential first 2,000 days. To help advance this goal, United Way put out a call for proposals to fund programs and services that are advancing SX6’s goals with a focus on efforts that build capacity to deliver prenatal and postpartum health services that are culturally responsive and support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) women and infants, and elevate family voice as part of the planning and decision-making processes of community-based organizations serving children and families birth to age five.  We’re thrilled to announce that the following organizations were awarded mini-grants, up to $7,500, to support their programs and services that are supporting our littlest Austinites!  Culturally responsive prenatal and postpartum support  Catholic Charities of Texas: support the St. Gabriel’s […]

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Announcing $70,000 to 14 Nonprofits: Increasing Grade-Level Reading Rates in Greater Austin

This summer, United Way for Greater Austin awarded a total of $112,000 in one-time grant funding to 23 qualified community organizations delivering effective programs and services that advance the goals of the community coalitions we convene as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty.  Here at United Way for Greater Austin we’re working hard alongside our community partners to ensure that all children are reading on grade-level by 4th grade. That’s why we lead the Greater Austin Reading Coalition, a diverse coalition of nonprofit and community leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents working to ensure that all children are reading on or above grade level by the fourth grade. To help advance this goal, United Way for Greater Austin put out a call for proposals to fund programs and services that are advancing the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s goals, including building a community culture of reading, engaging parents and caretakers in their child’s reading development, and making quality, enriching out-of-school-time services accessible to all children.  We’re thrilled to announce that the following organizations were awarded mini-grants, up to $5,000, to support their programs and services that are improving early grade reading outcomes for local children!  Build a community culture of reading  100 Black Men of Austin, Inc.: provide culturally-relevant books to local teachers to share with their students in the classroom AKA Association For Community Development, Inc.: implement Project G.R.E.E.N. at Oak Springs Elementary School, facilitating reading programs and book distributions for Oak Spring students Capital Area Alliance of […]

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Parents are Powerful: Meet Sasha Salinas

Welcome to our blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways that parents are using their voices to build a better, brighter Austin. In the first installment, we introduced you to two parent leaders who serve on the 2-Gen Leadership Council.  Today, we’re excited to introduce you to Sasha Salinas, a member of the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Council. A mom of two girls, ages 6 and 8, Sasha uses her voice to advocate on behalf of the children and families in her community.  Check out what she had to say to parents looking for ways to support their child’s reading development!  How did you get involved with the Greater Austin’s Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory Committee?  I am a Parent Champion through Families as Partners, a program within Austin ISD. Maria Rosas who runs the program reached out to several of us moms who are heavily involved in our community and have a passion for engaging others and advocating for children.  What are some of the barriers you see for parents in trying to access resources for their children’s reading development?  The biggest barrier is finding the information that is age appropriate and in their preferred language. That was my hardest part, especially as my kids get older. A lot of information is geared towards younger ages and, with my kids being 6 and 8, I don’t always know where to look for material that is appropriate for them.  The Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s Parent Advisory […]

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Read United: 10 age-appropriate books that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community

Did you know that having at least 20 age-appropriate books in the home can improve a child’s educational success? The Greater Austin Reading Coalition and Success By Six Coalition – convened by United Way for Greater Austin – want to make sure that all local children and families have access to books that illustrate a diversity of backgrounds and cultures. This June marks the 51st celebration of Pride Month — a month where we uplift, celebrate, and support the LGBTQIA+ community. United Way is excited to celebrate this month with all of our friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors.  In honor of Pride Month, here are 10 age-appropriate books that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community to help raise awareness about different types of families, what it means to be LGBTQIA+, and promote inclusivity. Many of these titles are available to check out at your local library or in audio form on YouTube. Top 5 board books for babies to toddlers: (ages 0-4) 1.”Love Makes a Family” by Sophie Beer 2. “My Two Moms and Me” by Michael Joosten, illustrated by Izak Zenou 3. “Peanut Goes for the Gold”  Jonathan Van Ness, illustrated by Gillian Reid 4. “Baby’s First Words” by Christiane Engel 5. “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole   Top 5 books for young readers: (K- 4th) 1. “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love 2. “I am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas 3. “Pride: The Story of Harvey […]

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