NFL, United Way partner to improve early grade reading


— Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson read to children at Webster Kendrick Boys & Girls Club in Park Heights on Tuesday, November 12, 2013 as part of United Way of Central Maryland’s early grade reading efforts. Dickson is a volunteer with the “READ LEARN SUCCEED” program.

Earlier this year, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb was appointed as the Baltimore Ravens representative on “Team NFL,” a national collaboration between United Way and the NFL to decrease the high school dropout rate. Through this partnership, Webb recruits volunteer readers, tutors and mentors for “Team Webb.” Interested volunteers can sign up at

Research shows that 57 percent of third graders in Maryland cannot read at grade level. Poor readers in fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school, which increases their chances of having a child while still a teenager, becoming impoverished and incarcerated.

In late 2012, United Way of Central Maryland launched a local program, “READ LEARN SUCCEED,” aimed at helping children achieve grade-level reading by fourth grade. Volunteers from central Maryland who sign up with Team Webb will be matched with a weekly volunteer opportunity convenient to them.

With 23 volunteer sites located in each central Maryland jurisdiction, “READ LEARN SUCCEED” recently expanded to Webster Kendrick Boys & Girls Clubs.

“I always tell kids that school is the platform to be whatever you want in life— whether it’s a professional athlete, business person or any profession. It’s key that we inspire kids early with a love of reading so that they don’t fall behind in school,” Webb said.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the national partnership between the NFL and United Way. The partnership is focused on youth health, wellness and education.

“Few things are more important in a life than a good education. We are very fortunate that Lardarius Webb and Team NFL are helping us provide low-income children the opportunity to succeed in school and beyond,” said Mark Furst, president and CEO of UWCM.

“This meant a lot because he came to read to us so we can read more,” said eight-year-old Kamari Cheley when asked how he felt about Dixon coming to his Boys & Girls Club.