YMCA Reads

ymca reads creating change at 4 area schools

From preschool until third grade, children learn to read. From then on, they read to learn. However, nearly half of all Escambia County third graders are struggling to read on grade level. For these kids, not learning to read means they can’t read to learn. That makes every class, every subject, harder. And so they struggle, eventually falling one grade, maybe two grades behind in their reading level. Some of these students may get promoted to higher grades when they aren’t ready. Some get teased because they can’t read aloud in class. Others, frustrated, eventually drop out.

At the Y, we have a solution: The YMCA Reads Program.

Y reads schools for 2023-24 school year
  • Ferry Pass Elementary
  • Global Learning Academy
  • Sherwood Elementary
  • West Pensacola Elementary

Bill McLaughlin retired after a 30-year career working for the VA. He still has a part-time job but was looking for something more. An avid reader himself, he learned about YMCA Reads on a website called Volunteer Match and decided it looked interesting.

He had no idea how closely he’d actually be working with the students at Ferry Pass Elementary, but now calls it “awesome” and shares that he truly looks forward to seeing his kids. On this day, London, a new participant, is slowly coming out of her shell around Bill. It’s clear to see that this soft-spoken, gentle man is a crowd favorite, evidenced by the hugs he receives from the students when they start and finish their time rotating through his station. When lessons are done for the afternoon and it’s time for some physical activity outside, he says he often has a child on each arm, with another asking him to throw a football.

Do you want to make a meaningful difference in a child’s life? Do you have two hours a week to give? The YMCA Reads Program needs you! Through a grant from the Escambia Children’s Trust, we offer this evidence-based curriculum at four Escambia elementary schools. Our goal is to support new and struggling readers, moving them up to grade-level reading. You can select your school and your day of the week. We conduct a background screening and offer training.

Like Bill, you have the power to make a child feel valued and supported

Sallie Stevens spent her career teaching high school math, so she’s had to adjust from high schoolers to elementary-age students. But she always wanted to focus on the basics of teaching, which she calls “my calling in life.”

At Ferry Pass Elementary, the program meets in a Kindergarten classroom. The tiny chairs aren’t really right-sized for everyone who participates, but it doesn’t seem to matter much. The room is buzzing with movement as students move through stations where they read aloud, answer questions, and tackle activities designed to reinforce their lessons.

She learned about YMCA Reads while attending a meeting for another organization. At that meeting, she introduced herself as a retired educator looking for her next thing. At the break, a Y staff member sought her out to share about the program and invited her to volunteer.

Sallie has high praise for YMCA Reads, calling it an excellent, well-run program. To be a volunteer mentor, she says you simply “must want to be here.” Y staff provide training and leadership. The volunteer’s role is to provide the additional individual attention that a student may need.

Do you want to make a meaningful difference in a child’s life? Do you have two hours a week to give? The YMCA Reads Program needs you! Through a grant from the Escambia Children’s Trust, we offer this evidence-based curriculum at four Escambia elementary schools. Our goal is to support new and struggling readers, moving them up to grade-level reading. You can select your school and your day of the week. We conduct a background screening and offer training.

Like Sallie, you have the power to be that adult who offers extra attention to a child in need.

The way Nancy Haney sees it, her professional work as a speech therapist was a perfect training ground for the YMCA Reads program. “This is my wheelhouse,” she says. Spending her career working with language-impaired kids makes her feel quite comfortable expanding the skills of new and struggling young readers.

On this day, she’s at Global Learning Academy, working with four students reading The Fox and the Hen aloud. Nancy takes a moment to praise these students for their progress. When they began the program three months back, they had to sound out every letter. Now, they’re reading more fluidly, giving Nancy a chance to work with them on building vocabulary. “Anybody know what a quilt is?” she asks when the story mentions one. She describes a quilt in detail before moving on, asking questions about the story to encourage comprehension. Later, she uses flash cards to help the students practice sight words, asking each child to use their word in a sentence.

Do you want to make a meaningful difference in a child’s life? Do you have two hours a week to give? The YMCA Reads Program needs you! Through a grant from the Escambia Children’s Trust, we offer this evidence-based curriculum at four Escambia elementary schools. Our goal is to support new and struggling readers, moving them up to grade-level reading. You can select your school and your day of the week. We conduct a background screening and offer training.

Like Nancy, you have the power to offer these students something better.

YMCA Reads is an early intervention program that targets students in Kindergarten through third grade with a curriculum designed to bring young readers up to grade level. The program improves students' literacy by focusing on skills such as phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.

YMCA Reads isn't just reading to kids. It operates as an extended classroom and helps students maintain school attendance and good behavior while developing self-esteem and social skills.

Students are referred by teachers and staff at their school. Each student receives three hours of structured instruction a week. The program has produced strong outcomes throughout the state, and we're excited to bring it to Pensacola, thanks to funding from the Escambia Children's Trust.

Our Mission: To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.