United We READ




"Today a reader, tomorrow a leader." - Margaret Fuller

Early Literacy Initiative History


In the last 13 years, the United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County as invested nearly $3,000,000 in youth development. We recognized the importance of literacy as a foundation for a successful life. Our work in early childhood literacy highlights the informative years leading up to 4th grade. Children learn to read through the 3rd grade - then they read to learn. Those that are not reading at grade level by the end of their 3rd grade year, face additional obstacles to success in the classroom and beyond.

The United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County has worked to develop a network of supporting programs that help our children find their imagination and the power of a literary mind. Communities In Schools works with children and families to overcome obstacles, succeed in the classroom, and reach graduation. The Salvation Army's Boys & Girls Club offers mentors and afterschool homework support for our youth at Sam Houston Elementary.  Our Scouting partners encourage youth to develop to their fullest potential, including educational and literacy goals. Our final partner is the YMCA with the Y Reads program, that began as a joint partnership with our United Way more than 10 years ago, with a goal to help children reach on grade level reading by 3rd grade. We continue to support these strong programs with history in our community, but continue to look for new opportunities to encourage our future leaders.

In 2019, the United Way of Mid & South Jefferson County launched a new program to recognize young readers and encourage those just learning the joy of reading through our Super Reader Program. Each grading period, 1st grade students in participating schools are entered into a drawing for a $25 gift (backpack with books, puzzles, games and other literacy prizes). Students with 3 AR points for the grading period are entered into the drawing. At the end of the school year, on each campus, all students that have 15 points will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Fire that is preloaded with books for the summer months. As the initial program supporting literacy, Super Readers celebrates the success of students as they discover the worlds between the covers of books and prepare for a life that is richer with culture and filled with opportunities because of the joys of reading.

In 2022, the program expanded to add Book Vending Machines on each participating campus. Students from all grade levels can earn a token as they are recognized for their AR goals or being a good citizen and helping others. Tokens are used to "purchase" a book from the Book Vending Machine. At the end of the school year, we celebrate the power of literacy with our Summer Reading Palooza. In the Summer of 2022, each 1st grade student went home with a backpack filled with 5 books to continue their summer reading.

In 2023, four additional Book Vending Machines will be installed on campuses in Port Arthur. All elementary schools in the Port Arthur Independent School District have a United Way MSJC Book Vending Machine!

For partnership and sponsorship opportunities please contact Priscilla Ochoa at priscilla@unitedwaymsjc.org or call 409.729.4040