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April 22, 2019
Thinking Bigger: Angela Zanelli & Jill Pereira, Lehigh Valley Reads
“It’s so much more than reading. It’s breaking the cycle of poverty and improving quality of life in our region.” Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet last year, a third of Lehigh Valley students left third grade reading below grade level. Lehigh Valley Reads, a partnership between PBS39 and United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, aims to tackle the problem by focusing on key areas: early childhood education, school attendance, summer learning opportunities, and trauma informed classrooms.
Jill Pereira, Senior Vice President of Education and Impact at United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley led the charge by helping to develop and organize five coalitions that drive this important work. Overseen by United Way staff, they’re made up of hundreds of volunteers from communities all across the Lehigh Valley. “That’s where the work is being done,” says Angela Zanelli, PBS39 Campaign Director for Lehigh Valley Reads. “My job is to help develop the strategy and systems so that this important work can expand to reach all 17 school districts in the Lehigh Valley.”
The goal is to have, by 2025, 100% of Lehigh Valley students reading at grade level by the time they leave third grade. It’s an ambitious undertaking, encompassing two counties and affecting more than 220,000 students. “We want every kid to be able to live up to their potential,” Zanelli says. “It’s so much more than reading. It’s breaking the cycle of poverty and improving quality of life in our region. The United Way-PBS39 partnership is unique,” she says. “I’m excited to be part of a team building something that has the potential to go even further than just the Lehigh Valley.”