ReadingPals is a statewide early literacy initiative that provides volunteer mentors for students from pre-k to 3rd grade who may need extra help.

ReadingPals - two girls in a classroom

Our ReadingPals volunteers have been paired with thousands of young children in Florida. They build meaningful relationships and help improve their social-emotional development and early literacy skills.

Why is ReadingPals Important?

In 2022, 50% of children in Florida are not ready for Kindergarten and 47% of students cannot read at a minimally proficient level by the end of third grade. Early intervention and individualized attention gives students the best likelihood of success. Studies show that children with mentors are more confident and have fewer behavioral problems.

ReadingPals Logo

What Do We Hope to Achieve?

  1. MENTORING: To build a love of reading through impactful relationships between students and mentors.
  2. EARLY LITERACY: To improve students’ understanding of the fundamental building blocks of early literacy.
  3. SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT: To help students build a strong social-emotional foundation through self-awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

Where is ReadingPals Available?

ReadingPals is managed by The Children’s Movement of Florida, United Ways and numerous community partners. Our local partners in 20+ Florida counties help us provide in-person ReadingPals opportunities in hundreds of classrooms, child care centers and afterschool programs. Some regions also offer a virtual mentoring version of ReadingPals, accessible from any smart device.

See where ReadingPals operates

2021-2022 ReadingPals Impact

  • 1,502 Students Matched
  • 991 Volunteer Mentors
  • 379 Classrooms
  • 34,682 Take-Home Books Donated
ReadingPals: Kids reading a book

Join ReadingPals

Boy holding book

What is the Commitment?

ReadingPals volunteers are asked to commit an hour per week with their student(s) for 25+ weeks during the school year (some programs may offer a 30-minute per week or semester option). Thousands of volunteers have made this commitment, many of which return for multiple years! 

What Impact Have You Made?

Over the last decade, more than 25,000 students have received a ReadingPals mentor and a share of 470,000 donated books. This is all made possible thanks to the Barnett family’s generosity and passion for promoting literacy and early childhood development.

How Can I Get Started?

Once signed up through The Children’s Movement of Florida or local United Way/agency, volunteers are connected with a regional coordinator who will provide details about participating schools in your area, available time-slots, background screening, training and curriculum.

What Else Can I Do?

ReadingPals volunteers see the importance of early education first-hand, and gain exposure to the challenges many teachers and students face in the classroom. We hope the ReadingPals experience will inspire our volunteers to become advocates alongside The Children’s Movement, promoting greater investment in Florida’s youngest children.

Celebrating 10 Years of ReadingPals

We celebrated 10 years of ReadingPals by hosting a virtual conference for hundreds of our volunteers, partners and parents, all centered around the importance of relationships and early brain development. Take a look at the full recap of our event, speakers and resources here


ReadingPals News


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Reading buddies needed: United Way ReadingPals looking for mentors

From Citrus County Chronicle: “With August coming up, more children will need reading buddies. ReadingPals mentors don’t have to have an education background. They just need energy, enthusiasm, and a heart for kids.”


Sunday, July 14, 2019

United Way recruiting volunteers for ‘ReadingPals’ program during upcoming school year

From Ocala News: “Volunteers will placed in targeted, kindergarten classrooms in 19 elementary schools for the 2019-2020 school year to assist students in building critical literacy skills.”


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Reading program will expand: United Way needs volunteers to serve 19 elementary schools

From Ocala Star Banner: “ReadingPals are paired with struggling students. The volunteer works one-on-one with their assigned student for the length of the program.”


Sunday, June 16, 2019

ReadingPals for kindergarteners needs volunteers

From The Lakeland Ledger: “The ReadingPals program is a fantastic opportunity to engage in students’ lives at a time when they are very impressionable and very much interested in that extra attention,” Barnett said.


Monday, April 15, 2019

ReadingPals Volunteer Has Quite a Story of Her Own

From Citrus County Chronicle: “Betty Rowe has spunk and grit, and she brings it with her each week to Crystal River Primary School where she’s a United Way ReadingPals volunteer.”


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Want to Leave a Legacy? Be a Mentor

From The New York Times: “Older people are uniquely suited for a mentoring role. The critical skills for nurturing relationships — emotional regulation and empathy — blossom as we age.”


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Welcoming Older Adults into the Head Start Classroom

From Medium: “Encourage volunteers to share their skills and hobbies. Invite volunteers to connect their lives to children’s interest and your curriculum.”


Monday, February 11, 2019

Bridging more than just a reading gap

From Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “The mission of the Literacy Lab is to provide low-income children with individualized reading instruction to improve their literacy skills, leading to greater success in school and increased opportunities in life.”


Friday, February 8, 2019

Educating homeless parents on the importance of early childhood education

From The Philadelphia Inquirer: “According to child experts, early experiences of homelessness are associated with higher rates of developmental delays, poor academic achievement, asthma, attention problems, poor social and emotional functioning, acting out, and other difficulties.”


Thursday, January 31, 2019

Acts of Kindness: Foster Grandparents Volunteer To Teach Students

From Star-Herald: “After dedicating their day to teaching the students, the foster grandparents feel a sense of pride as they watch the students interact with others in public for years.”


Friday, January 25, 2019

It Only Takes One Dedicated Mentor to Shape a Child’s Future

From Boca Raton Tribune: “If children are truly our future, then we adults owe them a helping hand in shaping it. We can do so through mentoring.”


Friday, January 11, 2019

Foster Grandparents Program Gives Children Love, Attention

From Reflector: “The children know these seasoned adults are not their teachers; they are their grandmas who take up extra time with them, teach them, give them hugs and welcome them onto their laps to read books.”


Friday, January 4, 2019

How San Antonio educators are bridging cultural gaps to involve parents

From San Antonio Express-News: “Educators across the country have emphasized parental engagement, because studies show students whose parents are involved outperform those whose parents do not appear engaged.”


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Five Ways to Nurture Compassion in Kids

From Mind/Shift: “Do more than have conversations about being compassionate with your child, look for ways to act compassionately at home and in your community.”


Thursday, January 3, 2019

How to Get Preschoolers to Share

From The New York Times Magazine: “To foster empathic behavior like sharing, helping and comforting others in a child, guide them into the inner world of feelings — their own and those of others.”


Monday, December 31, 2018

Foster grandparents volunteer and share their love at schools

From CBS News: “Wearing blue aprons and serving up hugs are six foster grandmothers working alongside the school’s teachers to help students succeed.”


Monday, November 26, 2018

Parents learn, babies talk: How coaching moms and dads improves infants' language skills

From Science Daily: “A new study shows that parents who learn how and why to speak ‘parentese’ can have a direct impact on their children’s vocabulary.”


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Home visiting helps children and parents — more families could use it

From The Hill: “Home visiting typically serves families with children under age 6 not yet in kindergarten — from single parents juggling new responsibilities to teen parents completing high school. It can be an especially important lifeline for military families.”


Monday, October 29, 2018

‘A big balloon of joy’: D.C. grandparents give students mentors and themselves a purpose

From The Washington Post: “The Foster Grandparent Program aims to give seniors across the country a purpose in retirement by providing some of the neediest children with mentors and giving teachers help in the classroom.”


Monday, July 23, 2018

Support Helping Children? Step Up and Volunteer Now

From The Tallahassee Democrat: “Do you love to read? Join the Reading Pals program and give that one-on-one attention that is so important for children struggling to read. ”

Our Partners


ReadingPals 2018-2019 Statewide Annual Report Cover

ReadingPals 2018-2019 Statewide Annual Report

ReadingPals 2018-2019 Statewide Annual Volunteer Survey

ReadingPals 2018-2019 Statewide Annual Volunteer Survey