United Way of the Plains Donates Books to Students at 15 Wichita Public Schools in Shocker Neighborhood

WICHITA, Kan., Thursday, May 16, 2023— Last week, students in grades K-3 at 15 schools in the Shocker neighborhood received new reading materials to take home and combat summer learning loss. A total of 6,616 books were delivered, with 3,308 children receiving two books and resources for parents to assist students with improving their reading skills. The books were purchased by United Way of the Plains from the 2023 Coaching for Literacy fundraising event in partnership with Wichita State University’s (WSU) Men’s Basketball during a game played Feb. 8 to support local childhood literacy efforts.

In 2022, more than 53% of Kansas third-grade students were not reading at a proficient level. According to The Children’s Reading Foundation, “Third graders who cannot read on grade level today are on track to be our nation’s lowest income, least skilled citizens. Reading is a prerequisite for most adult employment, continued personal achievement, and for a continued democracy. And sadly, some states use their elementary students’ reading failure rates to predict future prison sizes.”

To combat this issue, United Way of the Plains has worked with Wichita Public Schools and Wichita State University for the past three years to elevate awareness about illiteracy and raise money to buy books for children through the Coaching for Literacy program. Coaching for Literacy is a national initiative that uses the power of sports to raise awareness about the need to improve literacy.

This year volunteers from Scheels, Emprise Bank, Bank of America, Credit Union of America, INTRUST Bank, Commerce Bank, Evergy, and AGH, sorted and packed thousands of books for the school deliveries. Volunteers handed out the books on May 9, 10, and 11.

Books featuring characters of color are intentionally selected for this annual initiative to reflect the student population in the schools. The goal is to form a deeper connection to the stories and to improve reading comprehension. The books also provide valuable inspiration for children when they see characters who resemble them pursuing their dreams.

United Way of the Plains CEO and President Pete Najera said, “This community effort is made possible by people who are passionate about reading and understand the value of life-long learning. It’s inspiring to see so many people come together for this program who believe in the potential of every student and the importance of investing in them.”

The 2023 #Fight4Literacy game hosted by the WSU Men’s Basketball team produced donations from 186 contributors and a matching grant donation from International Paper. The total raised was $28,604 and donors propelled Wichita State University to the number one spot on the national Leaderboard for raising the most money and having the highest number of individual contributors in 2023. Generous WSU fans have kept the team in first or second place the last three years among participating NCAA teams.


Book deliveries were made last week to:

  • Adams Elementary School
  • Buckner Performing Arts and Science Magnet Elementary School
  • Cloud Elementary School
  • College Hill Elementary School
  • Gordon Parks Academy STEM Leaders in Applied and Media Arts
  • Harry Street Elementary School
  • Irving Elementary School
  • Jackson Elementary School
  • L’Ouverture Career Explorations and Technology Magnet Elementary School
  • Mueller Aerospace and Engineering Discovery Magnet Elementary School
  • Ortiz Elementary School
  • Park Elementary School
  • Spaght Science and Communications Magnet Elementary School
  • Washington Elementary School
  • Woodland Health and Wellness Magnet Elementary

Click here for downloadable photos and video footage of students receiving their books.

MEDIA CONTACT: Angie Prather, Vice President of Marketing and Chief Community Engagement Officer, (316) 267‑1321, ext. 4105, aprather@unitedwayplains.org

United Way of the Plains is a nonprofit and for-impact organization that focuses on health, education, financial stability and basic needs – the building blocks for a good quality of life and a strong community. Our mission is to improve lives by harnessing the caring power of our community to advance the common good in south central Kansas. Follow us on these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.


Published On: May 16, 2023


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