Newsroom

A “Rawr-some” Literacy Night with the Greater Austin Reading Coalition

On April 28, more than 200 children and families gathered for the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s first-ever Family Literacy Night at Sanchez Elementary School with coalition member Communities in Schools. Hosting family literacy nights and distributing culturally-relevant books are critical parts of the coalition’s work to ensure that all children are reading on grade level by the fourth grade.  At the literacy night, students had a blast getting their faces painted, picking out a book to take home, listening to a monster-themed storytime, and letting out their best monster roar! At the end of the event, they received a backpack filled with school supplies courtesy of Deloitte. Additionally, parents and caretakers were provided with resources to support their child(ren)’s reading development, including our new Guilt-Free Reading Calendar. It was a “rawr-some” night!    Special thanks to Communities in Schools, Deloitte, Sanchez Elementary, and the coalition’s Parent-Caretaker Working Group for making this literacy night a huge success. We can’t wait for the next one!   The Greater Austin Reading Coalition is convened by United Way as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty. Since launching in January 2021, the coalition has gotten 50,000 books (and counting!) into the hands of young readers. You can follow the coalition’s journey here. 

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10 age-appropriate books for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (and every month!)

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month, the Greater Austin Reading Coalition and Success By Six Coalition are excited to share 10 age-appropriate, children’s books that reflect the rich diversity of AAPI culture. These coalitions — convened by United Way for Greater Austin — work hard to make sure that all local children and families have access to books, especially books that illustrate the diversity of our community and that children can see themselves, their families, and their culture depicted in.  Many of the books listed below are available to check out at your local library or in audio form on YouTube!  Five books for babies to toddlers (ages 0-4) “Hot Pot Night!” by Vincent Chen  “I am Golden” by Eva Chen, Illustrated by Sophie Diao “Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao” by Kat Zhang, Illustrated by Charlene Chua  “My First Chinese New Year” by Karen Katz “Moana” by Disney Five books for young readers (ages 5-9)  “The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family” by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, Illustrated by Hatem Aly  “The Most Beautiful Thing” by Kao Kalia Yang, Illustrated by Khoa Le “Asian-Americans Who Inspire Us” by Analiza Quiroz Wolf with Michael Franco “Eyes that Kiss in the Corners” by Joanna Ho, Illustrated by Dung Ho “Ohana Means Family” by Ilima Loomis, Illustrated by Kenard Pak Ensuring that all kids are happy, healthy, and ready to succeed in school and beyond is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty in […]

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10 age-appropriate books for Black History Month (and every month!)

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 – work to make sure that all local children and families have access to books, especially books that illustrate the diversity of our community and that children can see themselves, their families, and their culture depicted in.  In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 age-appropriate books that reflect the Black experience, share stories about historical figures, and promote inclusivity. Many of these titles are available to check out at your local library or in audio form on YouTube. Looking for book recommendations for adults? Check out this list!  Five board books for babies to toddlers (ages 0-4) Baby Young, Gifted, and Black” by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins “Dream Big, Little One” by Vashati Harrison “I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything!” by Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young; Illustrated by Nneka Myers “Please, Baby, Please” by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson “B is for Baby” by Atinuke; Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank Five books for young readers (ages 5-9)  “The ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez; Illustrated by Lauren Semmer  “Little Leaders: Bold Black Women in History” by Vashti Harrison “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry; Illustrated by Vashti Harrison “Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America” by Deborah Diesen; Illustrated […]

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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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Greater Austin Reading Coalition hosts book fair for kids in Austin

Last month, dozens of elementary school students in Austin lined up to receive books at the Greater Austin Reading Coalition’s second book fair, giving  local children access to diverse stories they can see themselves in. Thanks to a donation of over 1,000 books, 100 breakfast bags, and fitness equipment from KPMG, the coalition partnered with the Extend-A-Care YMCA program to host a book fair for the community, distributing these gifts to 32 students in Austin. Kids at the after-school event picked out four to five books featuring a range of characters and stories written in both English and Spanish, and participated in reading circles led by three KPMG volunteers. “To see the delight on the children’s faces as they select their books, and to hear the conversations that they have with their peers about what the books might be about warms my heart,” said Michelle Hutson-Crawford, Director of K-12 Education at United Way for Greater Austin. “In this heavily saturated digital and social world, it’s good to know that books are still winning in 2021! We hope this act of kindness and community engagement inspires others to step forward in partnership with the Greater Austin Reading Coalition.” Only three in 10 kids from low-income households are reading on grade level by 4th grade, a crucial point in children’s development that can impact their future academic and career outcomes. The Greater Austin Reading Coalition, convened by United Way, is working to change that by giving children access to culturally relevant books […]

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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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$13.5 Million (Yes, Million) invested in Greater Austin Children and Families: Big Wins from the American Rescue Plan

Here at United Way for Greater Austin, we’re on a mission to bring people, ideas, and resources together to fight poverty in our community. United with community leaders and partners, we’re leading the charge to create sustainable and lasting solutions to break the cycle of poverty.  Advocacy is critical, not just to further the impact of United Way’s work, but to create lasting systemic change. It takes all of us — using our collective voice — to advocate for a Greater Austin that works for everyone. This is why we are so excited to share and celebrate with you a few major funding wins from the American Rescue Plan.  What is the American Rescue Plan?  The American Rescue Plan (ARPA) is a $1.5 trillion federal economic package designed to address the public health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding is being allocated to cities, counties, and states to directly support their recovery efforts. The City of Austin received $195.8. million in funding, and Travis County received $247.1 million.  A collective investment of $13.5 million, from the City of Austin ($11MM) and Travis County ($2.5MM), will be made to specifically strengthen our local education, health, and workforce systems. These funding decisions were driven by testimony and recommendations put forth by United Way and you, our supporters and coalition partners. Thank you! This significant one-time investment of federal dollars will not only drive Greater Austin’s post COVID-19 economic recovery, but help address some of the root causes of poverty in our community. […]

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Introducing the Greater Austin Reading Coalition

A few months ago, we announced that we would be expanding our work beyond early childhood education and into the K-12 space. This year, our K-12 work will focus on bringing together a diverse coalition of literacy advocates to work toward a shared vision of increasing the number of children who are reading on grade level by the 4th grade — a pivotal point in a child’s reading development. There has been so much work put in this past year to launch the coalition, and 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 who.” Who is in the coalition, and what role does United Way for Greater Austin play?  We are thrilled to announce that our newly formed coalition has chosen the name: Greater Austin Reading Coalition. This coalition is comprised of nonprofit and community leaders, librarians, teachers, and parents working toward a shared vision of supporting children, grades K – 3, to ensure they are reading on grade level by the fourth grade. The coalition is convened by United Way for Greater Austin as part of our collective impact work to fight poverty.  Current coalition members include:  100 Black Men of Austin […]

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