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United Way puts books into children’s hands

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Melyssa McHale, Lycoming County United Way Resource Development Manager, loads children’s books to be taken and distributed at Shaw Place Park in Williamsport on Thursday from 11am-2pm.

Fighting the summer slide Lycoming County United Way is working to distribute 1,500 books in the area, most recently at Brandon Park Tuesday.

The academic decline of school children during the summer months due to a lack of reading is also known as the slide. Once back in school, many kids must relearn what they had forgotten, but program administrators at the LCUW said they are working to stop that.

A part of the OMG Book Awards grant through First Book in the Washington D.C. area, the county’s charity program received $6,300 to purchase various books, ranging from preschool reading material to adult-level chapter books, said Melissa McHale, resource development manager.

The program, which will run through August or until they run out of books, was also recently at Firetree Place where McHale said several children came by.

“The kids from Firetree place loved it,” she said. “I got a response from those who work there and they were so grateful for all the books given out there.”

The remainder of those books were given to the child-care community center, said McHale.

The United Way is next scheduled to be at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in Loyalsock Township’s Shaw Park today.

As important for children’s brain’s as books, free lunches are also given out, she said.

“June was hunger awareness month so we wanted to focus on hunger, and the summer slide to try and combine them, so they got their food and then they got their book,” said McHale.

Ron Frick, president of Lycoming County United Way, said the organization is working to capitalize on the best ways to reach individual communities in the area to increase engagement.

“There’s different ways to approach different kids in different neighborhoods and so we’re going to try to find every way we can to get our materials out, not just books but awareness on hunger and all of the issues that we support,” he said.

Inside each of the books is a hand-written inspirational quote for the kids, he said.

“We also tried to look at the whole issue of diversity and try to make sure we pick books for all of these kids, like books that focus on Martin Luther King Jr., what happens in Washington and rock-n-roll,” said Frick. “Our focus is going to be on getting educated about what is the summer slide, why do kids need to read in the summertime, and then focusing on our partners that are focused on reading.”

Shawn Walker, of the city Recreation Committee, who was also present for the handout at Brandon Park said it’s important for programs like the United Way to stay consistent, especially during the pandemic.

“As far as ourselves here, we’re checking ourselves , maintaining social distance and everything, so if that is a concern, please do not be afraid but come out and enjoy this park,” he said.

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