This is the 12th year that United Way of Madison County, Alabama will celebrate Jumpstart’s Read for the Record.
The mission of United Way is to advance common good in communities. With 1200 local affiliates in locations across the country, the focus of each United Way is determined by the needs of the people they serve. For United Way of Madison County, Alabama, that means a deep investment in education
In 2008, Madison County wanted to do something locally to promote early literacy when they came across Jumpstart’s Read for the Record. They decided to start small, partnering with the local library to host readings of the campaign book at each of the pre-school story times as well as among the United Way partners with children in the 3-8-year-old range. That year they gathered a total of 50 children and adults together over the course of the day. According to Cathy Miller, Community Impact Director, Madison County’s Read for the Record celebration has steadily grown ever since and they have been able to break the record locally each year. In 2019 United Way of Madison County celebrated its 11th Read for the Record with 5,188 children and adults, including 200 volunteers as well as support from the county commission and an official mayoral proclamation!
“One of the reasons we love Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away is the focus on change, which can be scary for anyone,”
Despite all the challenges this year, planning for Read for the Record day on October 29 in Madison County, Alabama is still going strong. “One of the reasons we love Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away is the focus on change, which can be scary for anyone,” Miller said. Madison County has been focusing on mental health during the pandemic and Read for the Record “is an opportunity to step out of the strangeness and uncertainty of this time and step into a delicious story.”
While planning an event mid-pandemic, United Way of Madison County has determined that “laser simplicity is paramount for the mental and physical health of our community.” For safety, they will limit face-to-face interactions as much as possible because the state and county are still high-risk. This year’s Read for the Record celebration will target public school classrooms to streamline logistics and increase impact. To establish buy-in, they hope to recruit the help of the school superintendents in the county to reach out to principals to encourage participation in the program. Teachers that elect to participate will receive a free copy of the book which they hope will be used to host virtual live readings with students. Local celebrities and government officials will use their platforms to increase excitement and engagement about the program as well.
While there is some disappointment around being unable to offer the same level of volunteer opportunities as they have in the past, new ones are presenting themselves. Local community volunteers will be assisting with promotions over social media and others will be helping to deliver books to schools to alleviate some of the burden on teachers. Due to limited staff and resources this year, Madison County will likely be unable to track participation as accurately as they have in the past. This means that their local record-breaking trend may suffer, though they are planning for the book to be read by every PreK-2nd grade public school teacher in Madison County and will be collecting information from their local schools to verify attendance on October 29 as well as tracking social media “watches” our their LIVE reads.
The shift to a virtual Read for the Record celebration is just one of the many changes that have been presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the adjustment has been challenging and even a little sad at times, United Way of Madison County recognizes the value in still being able to bring the community together to take a break from the difficulties of these past months for the important purpose of promoting early literacy through this day of celebration and connection.