How 6,100 books were distributed to Wichita elementary students

The last several months have been busy at United Way of the Plains as we prepared to give Wichita Public School’s students reading material for summer break. We were able to do this with help from many organizations, volunteers and donors. This initiative is critical. A large number of students cannot read at a third-grade reading level.

This all started last year when a partnership was formed between Wichita State University Men’s Basketball, Coaching for Literacy, International Paper and ourselves. We collaborated to find a way to combat illiteracy in the Wichita community.

The goal: get more reading materials available to students in kindergarten through third grade. These books aren’t just for school, but for these kids to keep.

The Third Grade Reading Transition

Learning to read takes time and patience. It won’t happen overnight nor without dedicated educators and parents. What is so important to remember is that third graders are in a transition period. Until the third grade, students are learning the fundamentals about literacy. In the third grade, these students take these reading skills and start to apply them to other areas.

Learn to read versus read to learn.  Think of all the history books you studied in school; if you didn’t know how to read, how could you learn from those books?

A third grade student shows off one of the books he received from United Way's Fight for Literacy campaign.
United Way staff are interviewed by the media to promote the Fight For Literacy campaign.
How Funds Were Raised

You may be asking yourself what the Coaching for Literacy organization is and the explanation is pretty simple. This group works to address the problem of illiteracy through the power of sports organizations. Wichita State University designated a WSU men’s basketball game in February to help raise money through Coaching for Literacy. If you spotted the hashtag #Fight4Literacy, this is what that was all about.

As we worked to acquire donations for books and reading materials, Coaching for Literacy helped by providing items bringing awareness to the issues around illiteracy and provide financial support.

In total, over $30,000 was raised by donors and matching funds from the Kansas Health Foundation and International Paper.

Books, Books, Books

With the money raised, United Way of the Plains was able to purchase 6,100 books. Enough for two books for each of the 3,050 children who attend school in  Shocker Neighborhood (the schools immediately around Wichita State University).

Our staff worked with volunteers from around the community to help sort, stack and distribute these books to those kids.

The Big Day

If you spotted a bunch of young kids carrying around drawstring bags with United Way of the Plains logos on them, you are about to find out why.

In the middle of May 2022, we shared these 6,100 books with students in Wichita. Each student received their books in a United Way drawstring bag.

When the books were handed out, it was smiles all around. Students were checking out their new books, swapping with each other and most importantly, learning to read.

Our efforts aren’t done when it comes to addressing illiteracy in Wichita. Watching the positive impact our community can make is motivation to continue the fight for literacy.

Learn more in our press release

A third grade student shows off one of the books he received from United Way's Fight for Literacy campaign.


Published On: May 19, 2022Tags: , ,


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