On Friday Midcoast community volunteers read to over 4,000 children in local elementary school classrooms, child care centers, and Head Start Centers from Waldoboro to Brunswick.

United Way’s annual Community Read Aloud organizes approximately 200 volunteers to share the love of reading with young children and show them that adults in their community care about them.

“It’s hard to say who enjoys this more, the children or the volunteers,” said Barbara Reinertsen, United Way of Mid Coast Maine’s executive director. “Every year we have volunteers who tell us that reading to these enthusiastic children was the high point of their week – or maybe year. And of course we believe the children benefit by being introduced to other adults, outside of their teachers and families, who care about them and enjoy reading. It’s a great way to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday.”

Volunteer Lois Skillings, CEO and President of Mid Coast Health Services, read at the West Bath School, which also held its regular Friday morning community meeting for all students and teachers. “This week one of the teachers (who was dressed up like Thing 1 from Dr. Seuss) read a book. It was so great to see all of the students captivated hearing the story and the wonderful community energy in the room. There was a lot of reference to kindness which was wonderful,” she said. “I mentioned that being kind to others is certainly something we can all do and how impressed I was to hear how much kindness there is at their school.”

Bath Savings Institution was the lead provider of Read Aloud volunteers, with 15 employees reading to children for the community event. United Way is dedicated to ensuring that all Midcoast children get the best possible start in life with the support of their families and the whole community.

“Community Read Aloud Day is one of my favorite days at West Bath School because my students are joyful and engaged,” said Jennifer Harris, a teacher. “This opportunity allows them time to practice kindness and respect with community members.”

National research confirms that reading regularly to young children is one of the best indicators of later success in school, and local teachers have known this for many years. Benefits of reading aloud include language exposure, vocabulary building, and positive adult-child bonding experiences. Reading aloud with young children also is great fun and helps children learn that listening to stories, creating stories and reading themselves can also bring great pleasure.

“Our Success By 6 Initiative here at United Way has a long-term goal of promoting the importance of reading with young children, even starting at birth,” said Peter Lindsay of United Way.

The Community Read Aloud was coordinated this year by Mary Wallace at United Way of Mid Coast Maine and was sponsored by Comcast and the Rotary Club of Topsham Expresso.

For more information on United Way, visit uwmcm.org. You can also find United Way on Facebook and see more photos and stories from this year’s Community Read Aloud event.