Children from kindergarten to the third grade spend a majority of their time learning to read. But studies show that after the third grade, those same children read primarily to learn.
Hence, the kids who haven't fully comprehended the ability to read by the third grade begin to quickly fall behind in school because reading allows them to grasp new information and new material.
Orlando's Adult Literacy League understands the need to cultivate young readers and its "Read to Me!" book club has numerous success stories of children exiting their program and reading on grade levels well above their current position in school.
The Adult Literacy League's program reaches more than 100 children from the Parramore area in Orlando. Such a program likely wouldn't have been possible without $30,000 in grant money provided by the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), earlier this year.
"Without this grant money we wouldn't have been able to serve the children of Parramore," Adult Literacy League CEO Joyce Whidden said. "We have a program called `Reading Ready' by the time the child starts school because if people don't read to you, you are going to start school behind and not be ready to learn. That's the focus of our program and we serve kids from three to five years old."
The Orlando Magic Youth Fund (OMYF-MFF) gave away $1 million in grant money to 19 non-profit organizations in Central Florida earlier this year. The thrust of the giving is to organizations that serve children, underprivileged individuals, literacy or nutrition in hopes of making Central Florida a better place to live for everyone.
Three organizations were the beneficiaries of $100,000 grants: the Orlando Health Foundation (Howard Phillips Center), the Osceola Council on Aging and the Conductive Education Center of Orlando.
The other 2012 grant recipients are: Adult Literacy League ($30,000), Apopka Family Learning Center (Justice & Peace Office) ($53,000), Boys and Girls Club of Central Florida ($75,000), Bridges of Light Foundation ($35,000), Community Coordinated Child Care ($35,000), Early Learning Coalition ($50,000), Foster Grandparent Program ($75,000), Foundation for Orange County Public Schools ($50,000), Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools ($20,000), Foundation for Seminole State College of Florida ($75,000), Foundation of Osceola Education ($20,000), GROWS Literacy Council ($30,000), Hope CommUnity Center ($40,000), Gift of Swimming ($20,000), Boys' Town of Central Florida ($50,000) and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida ($42,000).
Magic CEO Alex Martins, who has worked on several boards of non-profit organizations in Central Florida, takes seriously the Magic's role of being leaders in the community, especially as it relates to children. Martins said the Magic's ability to positively impact more than 1 million children and teens through the years as the OMYF has donated more than $17 million brings him tremendous joy.
"I've personally worked with some of these folks and served on some of their boards and I know the great work that they do. I also know that some of them are struggling to do the work that they do because of our economic times. I'm grateful that we have the tools and the platform of the OMYF to raise $1 million and distribute it in these challenging economic times and make a difference," Martins said. "It's emotional for me and it's great to see the smiles on their faces and the gratitude that they have so that they can keep doing what they do to make this community a better place."
The Magic and the Adult Literacy League have worked closely in philanthropic pursuits for years through reading programs for children in Parramore and Central Florida. The Magic were recently sponsors of the League's "Reading Between the Lines" program and Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams, a prolific author, was the league's first author to read to the children.
"The Magic have provided a tremendous partnership and they have benefited us in ways that are philanthropic, but in other ways as well," said Whidden, adding that the "Reading Between the Lines" event has become one of the League's signature events. "There are so many ways to help the kids out, and the Magic are always willing to help out any way that they can."
To learn more or make a difference with a donation, visit omyf.org.