Celebrity Read | United Way of Essex and West Hudson

Celebrity Read


Celebrity Read for website

One of the benchmarks in United Way’s 10-year goal to decrease dropouts by 50% and increase graduation rates by 87% is to ensure that youth in our community are reading proficiently by 4th grade.

Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.  Many initiatives are underway to address the most important factors of early grade reading: school readiness, chronic absenteeism, parent engagement, summer learning loss, and literacy.

Did you know:

– Students reading at and above grade level in 3rd grade graduate from high school at higher rates than students below grade level.

– Children who are read to for 30 minutes per week for a school year evidence significant gains in their reading scores and in other subjects.

– Across the nation just under half of children between birth and five years (47.8%) are read to every day by their parents or other family members.

Celebrity Read is a literacy initiative spanning the month of February that recruits volunteers to model their love of reading and the pursuit of education as a pathway to success in local elementary school classrooms.

United Way believes that everyone can be a “celebrity” in the life of a child and we encourage those who want to be positively engaged with our communities’ youth to become Celebrity Readers.  Created in 1990, Celebrity Read was designated a “Local Legacy” in 2001 by the Library of Congress in recognition of the program’s unique service to the community.

dodger player for celebirty read for the webThroughout the month of February, volunteer readers visited designated school sites to read age-appropriate books with students and describe their profession while emphasizing the importance of reading and education.

For February 2016:

27 Schools participated from the seven communities of East Orange, Irvington, Kearny, Maplewood, Newark, Orange and South Orange.

351 volunteers read to 8,554 students, including 191 special needs students, from Pre-K through 4th grade in 476 classrooms.

Want to Get Involved?

For single-visit readers, the commitment can be anywhere from 3-5 hours depending on the school site. Typically, readers report to the school where they can choose from various age appropriate books for reading to two classrooms. Many schools like to take volunteers on a tour of the school and provide a light snack and do a short ceremony to thank them for their time.

One reason why the Celebrity Read initiative has been so successful is because our readers tell us time and time again what a wonderful time they have reading in the schools! Beyond the enjoyment of interacting with students and school staff who are excited to have you visit, we also know there are tangible benefits to children who are read to on a regular basis.



For more information about how to become a volunteer celebrity reader or, if your organization would like to “adopt” celebrity read at a school or send a team, please contact Machelle Lassiter  at  mlassiter@uwewh.org or973-854-2231 or fill out the Celebrity Read Volunteer form!

Sample of Past Celebrity Read Photo Galleries

Langston Hughes School Irvington 2015
George Washington Carter School Newark 2015
Rafeal Hernandez School Newark 2015 
School Newark 2015
Miller Street School Newark 2015
South 17th St School Newark 2015
B.R.I.C.K. Academy Newark 2015
Florence Ave School Irvington 2015
Forest Street School Orange 2015
Franklin Street School Kearny 2015
Hawkins Street School Newark 2015
13th Street School Newark 2015
S 17th Street School Newark 2015
Gordon Parks Academy Newark 2015
Ivy Hill School Newark 2015
Lincoln School Harrison 2015
Dr. W. H. Horton School Newark 2015
Lincoln School Harrison 2012
Branch Brook School Newark 2012
Camden School Newark 2012
Belmont Ave School Newark 2013
Branch Brook School 2012 



NJ Dept of Health