Wichita State University Men’s Basketball Team and United Way of the Plains donate books to students in Shocker neighborhood

WICHITA, Kan., May 1, 2024 — Last week, students in grades K-3 at 14 schools in the Shocker neighborhood received new reading materials to take home and combat summer learning loss. A total of 5,800 books were delivered, with 2,900 children each 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 2024 Champions for Literacy fundraising event in partnership with Wichita State University’s (WSU) Men’s Basketball during a home game played Feb. 7 to support local childhood literacy efforts.

In 2022, more than 53% of Kansas third-grade students were not reading at a proficient level. Illiteracy is a barrier for successful graduation and employment. It is also associated with school absenteeism and high-risk behaviors.

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

This year several volunteer groups from Bank of America, Credit Union of America, Emprise Bank, Fidelity Bank, INTRUST Bank, Key Construction, Minds Matter, Spirit AeroSystems, Textron and USD 259 sorted and packed thousands of books for the school deliveries.

Volunteers handed out the books on April 22, 23 and 24. Book deliveries were made by representatives of Andover Center for Advanced Professional Studies, Blue Cross Blue and Shield of Kansas, Fidelity Bank, Kansas Leadership Center, P.B. Hoidale Co., Inc., Project Teacher, 6 Meridian, The Law Company, United Way of the Plains, USD 259, Wichita Public Library, WSU Tech and Wichita State University.

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, “We view Wichita State University as a powerful partner in our community’s #ForceForGood. Their administration, coaches and basketball fans understand the value of life-long learning and believe in the potential of every student. This program provides help and hope for the children in Shocker neighborhood.”

The 2024 #Fight4Literacy game hosted by the WSU Men’s Basketball team produced donations from 184 contributors and a matching grant donation from International Paper. The total raised was $26,609 and donors propelled Wichita State University to the number two spot on the national Leaderboard for fundraising. Generous fans have kept WSU in first or second place among participating NCAA teams during the last several years.

Link to download video.

Book deliveries were made last week to these Wichita Public Schools:

  • Adams Elementary School
  • Buckner Performing Arts and Science Magnet 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


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, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok.


Published On: May 1, 2024


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