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Orange County United Way, Santa Ana Education Leaders Team Up for “Read Across America” Event in Santa Ana

Heroes Elementary School reading of Dr. Seuss books part of national effort to promote early childhood literacy, a key component of United Way’s FACE 2024 community action plan to reduce school dropout rates in Orange County

Santa Ana, CA – Orange County United Way officials and volunteers teamed up with Santa Ana education and civic leaders yesterday to support early childhood literacy by reading books brought by volunteers that had an impact on them when they were children, with students of Heroes Elementary school. The event also coincided with Dr. Seuss’s birthday so hats and rhymes were plentiful.

The event at Heroes Elementary School along with five other area schools was part of the national “Read Across America Day” early childhood literacy promotion.

“It was a great pleasure to take part in this important event and illustrate to kids how fun reading can be,” said Orange County United Way President and CEO Max Gardner, who himself spent time reading with students. “But there’s a serious element to it as well when you consider the impact that early childhood literacy has on our children’s’ futures.”

Indeedstudies show that young children who are read aloud to by their parents are much more likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade, a key milestone on the road to high school graduation.

Classrooms at Heroes Elementary paired up volunteers with students reading their favorite books to more than 1,000 children and the other participating schools were able to link volunteers to more than 400 students. The children even enjoyed a visit from the Cat in the Hat!

“We’re excited to honor Dr. Seuss’s birthday by reading today, but it’s important to read every day,” said Dr. Michelle Rodriguez, Assistant Superintendent, Elementary Education for Santa Ana Unified School District. “We hope this event inspires kids to read even more.”

Notables taking part in the Read Across America event included Santa Ana Council Member Angelica Amezcua, Santa Ana Unified School District Vice President Cecilia Iglesias, School Board members Valerie Amezcua and John Palacio, LA Kiss Defensive Back A.J. Cruz, as well as representatives from the offices of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and State Assembly Member Tom Daly. 

Volunteers from U.C. Irvine, Mazda, the Santa Ana Unified School District and Orange County United Way also read with the students. 

The event coincides with the kickoff of “Read Aloud 15 Minutes” month, during which parents are encouraged to “read aloud” to children for at least 15 minutes every day.

Early grade literacy is a core component of United Way’s 10-year FACE 2024 community-wide action plan, which has an Education goal of cutting the local high school dropout rate in half by 2024.

“We’re focusing on early grade reading now because if we can get these kids on the right track from the start, I have no doubt we’ll be able to move the needle on graduation rates in significant ways within the next decade,” concluded Gardner.

United Way’s FACE 2024 plan was introduced in 2013 after a two-year strategic planning process as a long-term comprehensive effort to ensure that every child in Orange County has access to the building blocks for a good, quality life: education, income, health and housing.

For more information about Orange County United Way’s early grade reading programs, visiwww.ocreads.comFor more information about the FACE 2024 campaign, please visit www.unitedwayoc.org/face-2024.


OC Reads


Michael Suydam
21Strat 949.981.5008, mike@21strat.com

Katherine Ransom, Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Orange County United Way 949.263.6176, katheriner@unitedwayoc.org


Since 1924, Orange County United Way has been working to improve lives and strengthen our community by mobilizing the caring power of Orange County and focusing on the building blocks for a good quality of life: Education, Income, Health and Housing. By investing in Orange County children, families and individuals, we help them create pathways to self-sufficient lives. In short, we help people help themselves. Through our 10-year community-wide action plan, “FACE 2024” (an acronym for Fund, Advocate, Collaborate, Educate), we collaborate with local businesses, community organizations, governmental agencies and individuals to make a long-term measurable difference in the lives of local individuals and families. To learn more or to join our movement, visit www.unitedwayoc.org.

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