Meeting the need: Granite United Way helps expand online literacy tool in Manchester schools

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Reading Plus at Home. Courtesy Photo

MANCHESTER, NH – When Manchester schools had to pivot to an online learning platform as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Granite United Way was there to help bring additional support. 

Earlier this year, Granite United Way was able to expand the Reading Plus® program into Middle Schools thanks to a generous gift by Wells Fargo. When the COVID-19 pandemic shifted Manchester School Districts online, Granite United Way connected with the Reading Plus® organization who then offered to add additional students to the program during the crisis. 

“We’ve seen great success with this innovative online platform, with some students improving their literacy up to two grade levels, so we know this is a valuable tool for our school district to have,” said Patrick Tufts, President and CEO of Granite United Way. “We have a strong relationship with the Manchester School District, and our partners at Reading Plus® wanted to keep education at the forefront during this unprecedented time.”

The program has proven success in the Manchester School District, with Manchester middle school students at Parkside, Hillside, McLaughlin and Southside improving their literacy levels at an average rate of 1.3 grade levels. During the first week of remote learning, before mandated beginning, nearly 800 students utilized the program at home. This week, 5 additional elementary schools – Gossler Park, Hallsville, Northwest, Parker Varney, and Weston – enrolled another 886 students to the program.

“We value our partnership with United Way and are both appreciative and excited about expanding online use of Reading Plus®. Literacy is not only one of our top priorities, it is an essential academic and life skill for students. United Way’s initiative will help more students acquire reading skills during this period of remote learning,” said Dr. John Goldhardt, Superintendent of the Manchester School District.

The team at Reading Plus® were more than happy to lend a hand.

“It is hard to overestimate the tremendous challenge facing educators in having to quickly move to remote teaching with everything already on their plates. They’re working with large class sizes, supporting students’ social and emotional needs and a full range of learning styles and special needs. And on top of that, many have their own children at home,” said Steven Guttentag, CEO of Reading Plus®. “We wanted to make this transition as easy as possible for them. We are honored to be able to provide additional support and services to communities in need.”

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig has seen the program in action and knows how important it is to have this tool available during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have a strong partnership with Granite United Way, and are grateful that they were able to leverage their relationship with the Reading Plus® organization to provide this for our teachers and students during a time where our district had to move to an online teaching platform,” said Mayor Craig. “We have seen students in our Middle Schools succeed with this program already and expanding it to additional schools in the City will help keep our students engaged in literacy.”

Granite United Way and Wells Fargo had brought Reading Plus® to the four Middle Schools earlier this year, helping to pave the way for this recent implementation.

“Now, more than ever, we need innovative technology solutions to ensure all students continue learning and making academic progress,” said Briana Curran, vice president, Community Relations and Communications, Wells Fargo, which has invested $105,000 over three years in the program. “Granite United Way’s commitment to Manchester students is unparalleled and the expansion of Reading Plus® will have a tremendous impact for so many in the community.” 

Granite United Way continues to seek ways to bring positive impact to our communities during these unsettling times.

In an effort to address immediate and long-term need of our community, Granite United Way has also established the Granite United Way COVID-19 Relief Fund, with 100% of the support being directed to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. To give, visit www.graniteuw.org or text GUWHELPS to 41444.

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, Granite United Way will be sharing the most up to date information on ways to help our neighbors; visit graniteuw.org.


Granite United Way

Granite United Way is an experienced and trusted organization dedicated to leveraging the resources of investors and volunteers to create lasting change by addressing the underlying causes of our community’s most pressing needs.  United Way’s purpose is to convene public, private, and governmental leaders and resources to tackle the largest, most pressing issues facing our community. Granite United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of everyone in every community visit www.graniteuw.org.