On year’s longest day, act to make community

Published 8:14 am Friday, June 18, 2010

Monday, June 21, has more daylight hours than any other day of the year. On this day, we at United Way challenge each of you to take action that will make a difference in the life of a child. Read together, play a game, go to the park.

There are many scary statistics about children not being ready for school, not reading on grade level and not graduating from high school on time. You may have seen these numbers: Twenty percent of Virginia children show up for kindergarten without the basic skills to succeed; only 25 percent of fourth-graders in the United States are reading at grade level; and 10 percent to 15 percent of kids who don’t read at grade level by third grade are very likely to drop out of school.

Kids Count reports that the on-time high school graduation rate in Franklin is 71.5 percent and in Southampton is 80 percent.

United Way conducted a community survey in the fall to get an understanding of the worst problems in Franklin and Southampton. Several youth-related issues ranked high on this list: high school dropout rate, need for youth activities outside of school, early-childhood education, and teenage pregnancy.

Some of the problems our children face can be lessened by spending time with them, starting with the critical early years. With many parents working multiple jobs, looking for a job, or perhaps traveling further in a new job, countless children are not getting the attention they need.

Many of the skills that contribute to a child’s success in school and in life are developed before formal schooling begins. Children learn to listen to adults and follow directions, they learn to complete simple tasks independently, and they learn to work cooperatively with other children.

You may have read the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum. Things like: share everything, play fair, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess. Today’s children are expected to know these things and more before they get to kindergarten.

Why do we at United Way care about your children? Because you do. This column is not about fundraising or asking you for a monetary donation. It’s true that United Way is about giving – but not just about giving money. We also encourage you to give your time to help others or to advocate on a cause you care about. We care about the same community issues that you do, and dollars alone cannot fix many of the challenges we are facing.

What can you do to make a difference to a child? Many of these actions are simple; they just take a little time. Don’t have children of our own? You can do these activities with a grandchild, niece/nephew, neighbor’s kid, or even a child you don’t yet know.

Take time to read with a child. Attend a summer reading program at the library in Franklin or Courtland. Go to the library and check out some fun books. Pledge today that you will contact a school this fall to volunteer to tutor a child. Call Colleen Monn at the Boys & Girls Club (562-7350); she needs summer volunteers to help kids with art, photography, sports, mentoring. Go for a walk and just talk. Play a game. Go fishing. Share any age-appropriate fun activity.

Do you have or know a preschooler? Commit to getting him or her ready for kindergarten. These simple activities will help your child be prepared. Talk to your child. Sing with him. Practice with crayons, markers, pens, chalk. Practice cutting with scissors. Teach them how to use a tissue, go to the restroom and wash hands. Count everything and touch each piece as you do it. Play — we all learn so much through playing!

Our community has a group of men and women who are newly retired or working part-time. We need each of you to get involved and help our children. We need you to take action today to make a difference in a child’s life. After all, we all win when another child succeeds in school.

If you want to know more, contact me at the United Way office, 569-8929.