Ravens’ Lardarius Webb reads to city students


— On Friday, March 28, 2014, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb joined 45 United Way of Central Maryland (UWCM) volunteers to read to elementary-aged children as part of National Reading Month, aiming to promote the importance of early-grade reading.

Volunteers, including Lardarius Webb, read Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat,” completed a reading comprehension activity and made the signature red and white Cat in the Hat hats with students. Webb joined volunteers from BGE and other organizations at Callaway Elementary School. United Way volunteers also conducted Dr. Seuss themed reading activities at Carroll Child Care Centers in Westminster on March 24, and partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bel Air on March 6 to have a Dr. Seuss party.

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 one’s chances of having a child while still a teenager and becoming impoverished or incarcerated. In late 2012, UWCM launched a local program, READ LEARN SUCCEED, aimed at helping children achieve grade-level reading by fourth grade. Currently there are 23 READ LEARN SUCCEED volunteer sites located across central Maryland.

“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,” said Lardarius Webb.

Earlier this year, 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 is recruiting volunteer readers, tutors and mentors for “Team Webb.” Interested volunteers can sign up at www.unitedway.org/teamwebb. Volunteers from central Maryland who sign up with Team Webb will be matched with a weekly volunteer opportunity convenient to them.

“As Dr. Seuss said, ‘Oh the things you can find if you don’t stay behind!’ Cultivating an early love for reading is critical in ensuring that children don’t fall behind in school. We’re grateful for Lardarius Webb and all of the volunteers this month who are helping change the odds for students from low-income families by showing them that reading and learning can be fun,” commented Mark Furst, president and CEO of UWCM.

In central Maryland, National Reading Month volunteer activities are being spearheaded by a partnership between United Way of Central Maryland, the Weinberg Foundation’s Library Project and the Mayor’s Reading Club.

United Way of Central Maryland is working to change the odds for families and communities through programs focused on education, financial stability and health. For more information about United Way of Central Maryland, please visit www.uwcm.org.