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United Way works with schools to improve reading skills among Central Georgia students

Volunteers are part of the Read United literacy programs and working to improve students reading level.

CENTERVILLE, Ga. — Read United was started five years ago has grown into five Central Georgia counties. They are Baldwin, Bibb, Houston, Peach and Twiggs county. Volunteers come into the school and tutor kindergarten through third grade students and improve their reading skills. The hope is by the time they enter the third grade, they know how to read at a proficient or above reading level. Third-grader Pierson Murray started the program in second grade.

"When I finished second grade, I was in the middle of a third grade level. I traveled the most in my class last year," Murray said.

Murray goes to Centerville Elementary school in the Houston County School District. She says she likes being in the Read United program because she gets to see her tutors and her reading skills have improved.

"I think it's really fun at the end of the year, they give us this certificate and a goodie bag," Murray said.

Ken Asbury was a pawn shop owner before he became a tutor. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Centerville, GA. He says getting to know the students is the best part.

"We get 30 minutes, we spend an hour a week mentoring. I don't think we want to say we're reading to them because they're basically reading to us," Asbury said.

Read United is a program though United Way of Central Georgia. They have almost 500 volunteer tutors spread across the five counties. Walon Smith is a coordinator for the program through the Centerville Elementary school. He says the relationship he buildings with the students makes a difference.

"We know it works because we test the children before, during and after, so we get great results, and I don't know where this is going, but we know it works here and we'll just keep doing it," Smith said.

Smith got into volunteering with United Way of Central Georgia after hearing about the low reading levels in the county. Smith says he doesn't want Murray and the other third graders to fall behind, and he loves what he does. 

"Knowing the results is probably the motivation for the people in here that keep coming back and doing this year after year."

If you are interested in becoming a tutor, you can apply on United Way of Central Georgia website.

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