The United Way of Greater Chattanooga implores children to read, and it's providing new books to help them do it.
"We believe when kids can read they will be more successful in life," said Elizabeth Tallman, the United Way's associate director of community impact.
The United Way of Greater Chattanooga bought 3,000 books that will be distributed in area reading centers within walking distance of nearly every child in Chattanooga.
All neighborhood reading centers should be stocked and ready to open by Saturday, Tallman said.
Most reading centers are in the city's youth and family development centers. Other locations include The Public Library, the Creative Discovery Museum, Greenwood Terrace Apartments, New City Fellowship East Lake and the North River YMCA.
Reading lists vary by school, so the books at each center will match the list given by schools zoned for that area.
The books, for reading levels from kindergarten through 12th grade, include titles such as "Curious George" and "Mouse Paint" for younger readers and books for older students such as "Lord of the Flies" and "The Old Man and the Sea."
Children lose the equivalent of two months' worth of reading and math work during the summer, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
And fewer than half, about 45 percent, of third- graders in Hamilton County Schools read at grade level in 2013, according to a United Way news release.
Students not reading on grade level by third grade are more likely to end up in jail or on public assistance, statistics show.
The United Way's goal is for students to become adults with career choices, Tallman said.
The nonprofit organization has lots of help making sure the reading project is a success. Its emerging leader volunteers, a group of young professionals, sorted the books by reading grade level and distributed them to the centers.
"Other people helped us out, so I think it's important to help others," said Jeffery Maddux, an emerging leader volunteer and an attorney at the law firm of Chambliss, Bahner and Stophel.
Volunteers also included teachers and Hamilton County Schools students such as 8-year-old Carter Shiveley.
"Reading is fun," he said while sorting books this week. "You can learn a lot from books."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.