University of Delaware
United Way volunteers Tierra Fair, dressed as Dr. Seuss, and Kanani Hines join Alan Brangman and Rick Deadwyler at the ELC Wilmington.

Reading across the ELC

University partners with United Way for Read Across America events


5 p.m., March 4, 2016--The University of Delaware’s Early Learning Centers in Newark and Wilmington were buzzing with excitement on Wednesday, March 2, as dozens of volunteers from six organizations joined more than 200 children in 16 classrooms to participate in Read Across America Day. 

For the past 18 years, the National Education Association has sponsored Read Across America on March 2, to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. This year, UD partnered with the United Way of Delaware (UWD), W.L. Gore and Associates, Burris Logistics, Dow Chemical and Delaware state legislators to promote the love of reading in children.

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“The International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children credit reading aloud to children as the single most important activity for building reading and writing skills,” explained Peg Bradley, director of the ELC, as she welcomed the crowd. “Reading aloud to children and talking about what we are reading helps children develop vocabulary, a critical predictor of future reading achievement.”

“Children not proficient in reading by third grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than proficient readers,” added Steve Saville, chief strategy officer, United Way of Delaware. “Read Across America’s goal, which United Way supports, is to create lifelong readers. Reading changes lives.” 

Volunteers flooded into classrooms where they were quickly surrounded by loose circles or tight scrums of students, many wearing the Cat in the Hat’s signature red and white hats that they’d made in class. 

As storytime began, the children came alive, eagerly pointing to pictures in the book, waving hands or shouting out answers. 

“This is a good sign,” said Bradley. “That engagement and enthusiasm shows they are learning — building reading comprehension skills.”

Similar excitement was brewing at the ELC Wilmington, where UD administrators H. Alan Brangman, interim executive vice president and treasurer, and Rick Deadwyler, director of government relations, joined Jamee Boone and Deb Winters of UWD to read to the youngsters. 

After the books were read, children in both locations received a drawstring backpack containing an age-appropriate book and supplies, provided by UWD, W.L. Gore and the Santora CPA Group.

Since it wouldn’t be a birthday party without treats, the program ended with cupcakes from Desserts by Dana, owned by Dana Herbert, 1998 graduate of the University with a degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management. 

United Way coordinated ELC’s two afternoon programs, as well as three morning events in each of Delaware’s counties. Deborah Armstrong of United Way said she was proud of the way entire state embraced the program, announcing, “Together, we can accomplish great things…when we are united.”  

Bradley echoed that sentiment. “We can change the course of young people’s lives through reading. The presence of everyone here today sends a clear message to hundreds of children and their families that reading is important and it’s fun.” 

The volunteers were properly inspired by the event. As he was leaving, Tyrone Jones of the United Way said with a smile, “This is what it’s all about. Helping kids.” 

And that’s exactly what they did. 

After finishing her book, one reader asked the children, “Who here likes to read?” 

“Me, me!” they cried, 

their voices loud. 

Dr. Seuss, my dear man

You would have been proud. 

About UD’s Early Learning Center

The ELC, located within UD’s College of Education and Human Development, was established as a model of quality early care and education for young children and their families. It provides a living-learning laboratory for more than 300 UD students a year as they fulfill clinical placements and undertake research projects. 

The Newark location serves 250 children, from 6 weeks of age to grade 3, and their families. Its population mirrors the diversity of the state, with 30 percent of students coming from homes where incomes fall within the federal definition of poverty.

The Wilmington location provides care for children enrolled in the New Directions Early Head Start program, ages 6 week to 3 years. Highly qualified childcare professions encourage children’s emotional, physical, and cognitive development, while advising parents and guardians how to best meet their children’s and families’ needs.

Article by Alison Burris

Photos by Lizzy Adams and Kathy Atkinson

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