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Crowdfunding Underwrites New Arlington Reading Oasis

A new $10,000 “Reading Oasis” reading center at Speer Elementary School in Arlington was crowdfunded by more than 1,300 United Way professionals, community leaders and volunteers from around the world who were in Grapevine April 29- May 1 for the United Way Worldwide Community Leaders Conference. The conference attendees donated the money in about seven minutes using their mobile phones through the “Club Connect Adopt-A-School” program. (See video below.)

Participating in an April 30 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Reading Oasis were Stacey D. Stewart, U.S. President of United Way Worldwide (shown at left); Tim McKinney, United Way of Tarrant County CEO; Bill O’Dowd, Club Connect Founder and member of United Way’s Worldwide Leadership Council; Bethany Tinderholt, wife of Rep. Tony Tinderholt;Joshua Finkenbinder, District Director for Rep. Tinderholt; Dr. Christi Buell, Arlington ISD Area Superintendent; Selena Solis-Bastidas, Speer Elementary Principal; Kort and Lisann Peters, Club Connect advocates who have adopted two Arlington schools; andClifford the Big Red Dog from Scholastic.

Speer Elementary is the first crowdfunded beneficiary of the “Club Connect Adopt-A-School” program launched by United Way Worldwide in partnership with the National Association of Elementary School Principals and Scholastic. The program provides resources to elementary schools that are most in need to help improve early grade reading levels to bolster high school graduation rates. United Way of Tarrant County brought the program to North Texas last year. Speer Elementary’s Reading Oasis is the 10th installed in Tarrant County by United Way with the help of underwriters and volunteers. United Way of Tarrant County’s 10-year education goal is to enable 8,000 students at risk of dropping out to graduate from high school on time by 2020.

The new “Reading Oasis” at Speer Elementary was installed by volunteers from Pier 1 Imports. It features hundreds of new books, beanbag furniture, a colorful carpet and a listening library with a CD player and books on CDs.  It’s a place where families can enjoy reading together, learn how to make reading a habit at home and gain access to books year-round. According to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, only 47.9% of young children are read to everyday. In Texas, it’s even lower at 38.3%

Every child at Speer Elementary will receive a membership to United Way Club Connect, a national website featuring celebrity book readings, educational games, inspirational videos, e-books and other learning activities.