The Line That Connects: Good Deeds Tackle Early-Childhood Literacy

Rashied Davis reads to a group of children in Pritzker Park

With education in the minds of many Chicago parents, teachers, students and citizens as the new school year approaches, a challenge to reach 100,000 good deeds came in the form of connecting art to action. This effort, known as the GO DO GOOD campaign, provides a positive way for Chicagoans to actively participate in improving education in our city. The campaign, led by United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and the Chicago Loop Alliance, kicked off last month with the unveiling of a mural created by Midwestern artist Kay Rosen. Each month of the 100-day campaign is driven to give kids the tools they need to thrive in school, including literacy, healthy eating and back-to-school this June, July and August. This month marked Literacy as its theme, encouraging participation in various book-drives throughout the city. On Thursday, June 23, a Read-In featuring Chicago Bears player, Rashied Davis took place at Pritzker Park in the Loop. Davis, whose own charity, Rashied Davis Charities, supports early-childhood literacy, welcomed over 50 children by reading one of his daughter’s favorite childhood books to the group. At the close of the event, each child received a library card, a copy of the book read and a newfound love of reading. “I’m honored that CLA asked me to be apart of the GO DO GOOD campaign.  I enjoy doing anything helping children accomplish goals and dreams in life,” explained Rashied. “Education is very important to my wife and I so anytime we can get involved with teaching children the importance of reading we are all over it.  Students that perform well in school become more productive members of society so it is our job as adults to get them ready for life.  It is to our benefit as well.” As part of the GO DO GOOD campaign, the Read-In at Pritzker Park, served to emphasize the importance of literacy and a child’s preparedness upon entering school. Literacy is a cornerstone in a child’s academic achievement, shaping how effectively and efficiently an individual learns. But today, 46% of kids start school without the skills they need to learn. Even more daunting, the larger the gap at school entry the harder it is to close. With donations made through GO DO GOOD, as well as our new Education Initiative, United Way will support programs that ensure children enter school ready to learn and support kids in their successful transition into high school. However, the impact and breadth of the campaign relies on your participation! Over the next couple months opportunities to donate food in promotion of proper nutrition, as well as a stuff-the-bus school supplies event will take place in the heart of downtown. We will be counting the GOOD deeds on our website, as well as with black and yellow displays on State St. The website also features a “Deeds and Deals” section suggesting ways in which you can help us reach 100,000. With the help and support of our community, our hope is to send our children to school with the tools they need to succeed.

How Teaching English Taught Me

The following blog is posted on behalf of Esther Hicks, Director of Community Investment at United Way DuPage/West Cook. We always say that you have the most impact when you give, advocate AND volunteer.   Over my past three years with United Way, I have definitely found this to be true.   I recently finished a two-year tutoring experience with an adult English language learner in my community, and it was literally nothing short of life-changing.   I know that the main point of tutoring or mentoring is to help your student or mentee, but especially in my case, she really helped me, too. Having grown up thoroughly middle class, it can be difficult to imagine what it’s like for someone who lives in the DuPage area to live under 100% of the Federal Poverty Level (about $22,000 for a family of four), which is the level at which we consider a family “in poverty.”   My student and her husband both work, but they are minimum-wage and somewhat seasonal jobs, so their family falls below poverty level.   Yet, somehow they make it work, and I have been so impressed with how they manage.   They have a tightly-knit extended family in the area, so her kids are often playing with cousins and they all share babysitting duty when others have to work.   They have a cellphone and some video games; they aren’t destitute, yet the family of five lives in a two-bedroom apartment. What really made an impression on me is that this family uses social services in our region that are supported by United Way in all three of our impact areas.   The literacy program that connected us is funded under our Financial Stability portfolio; her kids have all attended early childhood programs funded under our Education portfolio; and she and her husband use Access DuPage for health services, which is funded under our Health and Wellness portfolio.   They are truly the picture of the hard-working family that is able to make ends meet with a little support from community organizations. And, just like we require of our programs, I can really see the impact and results that these programs have had on her family.   Because of her increased English abilities, my student has gotten a raise and now trains newer employees at her job, and occasionally translates between Spanish-only employees and her English-only manager.  She would tell me about the healthy eating and child safety tips she received and started using from the home visitor through her youngest daughter’s early childhood program.   If she was sick and had to miss work, she would tell me that she went to her doctor and used her “medical card,” which refers to an affordable medical care program funded within our Health and Wellness portfolio. Although my student has graduated from the literacy program, I know that all she has learned will have a ripple effect throughout her family.   One of her primary goals had been to help her kids with their homework, and I know she feels more able to do that, and in turn will help ensure that they graduate high school and go on to college.   Her goal of being able to speak with doctors and teachers has already improved, and she’s an active volunteer in her children’s classrooms.   She doesn’t aspire to be a CEO or make a six-figure salary, yet I think the goals she set and the achievements she’s made are exceptional accomplishments themselves.