Volunteering just one hour of your time a week to read to a child makes a lifelong impact — in their life and yours.

ReadingPals offers volunteers an opportunity to build meaningful relationships with young children in Florida, while helping them improve their social-emotional development and early literacy skills.

What Is ReadingPals?

ReadingPals is a statewide volunteer-based early literacy initiative that provides mentors for students from Pre-K through 3rd grade who may need extra help, utilizing one-on-one or small group settings.

Why Is ReadingPals Important?

45% of children in Florida are not ready for Kindergarten1 and 43% of Florida students cannot read at a minimally proficient level by the end of third grade.2 Additionally, studies show that children with mentors are more confident and have fewer behavioral problems.3 Early intervention and individualized attention gives students the best likelihood of success.

What Do We Hope To Achieve?


To build genuine, impactful relationships between students and our volunteer mentors.


To improve students’ understanding of the fundamental building blocks of early literacy.


To help students build a strong social-emotional foundation through self-awareness, self-management,
social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making.

1. Florida Office of Early Learning (2018)
2. Florida Department of Education (2018)
3. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada (2013)

In Hillsborough and Pinellas

ReadingPals commit to meet regularly, one-on-one, for one hour a week with a child. As part of your time, ReadingPals volunteers read with students, listen to them read and play literacy games. Volunteer positions require a background screening and an orientation to prepare you to work with students. Orientations are held at our Tampa office every 2nd Thursday of the month from 1- 3 pm. We also host orientations at various sites in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties as well as a virtual orientation. Check our events calendar to find the next session, or contact us to view the virtual version. There are 6 after school sites to choose from across Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

For more information and to submit interest in becoming a ReadingPal, contact Nicole Brown at or 813.274.0998.

In Manatee

United Way Suncoast staff, in partnership with early learning educators, trains and deploys volunteer ReadingPals who dedicate their time to read with 1-2 students weekly for 30 weeks. This year ReadingPals is in 14 Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classrooms at eight Title 1 Schools.


  • In Kindergarten classrooms, volunteers read a new book each week with their Pal that they then take home to build their home library. This helps create positive memories associated with Reading. They also use sight word activities and a tablet program called “Footsteps2Brilliance” to access additional books and literacy components.
  • In VPK classrooms, volunteers utilize pre-made kits that contain two books and corresponding literacy games targeting specific VPK needs. In some classrooms, volunteers also read a new book and utilize Footsteps as well.

Volunteer Experience

Volunteers emphasize a love for reading while helping children develop early learning skillsets that will allow them to learn to read in the classroom. ReadingPals is a guided program that works closely with the classroom teacher to allow for individualization based on children’s specific needs. In addition to developing strong mentorship and a love for reading, volunteers focus on letter and sight word recognition as well as developing social and emotional intelligence. ReadingPals also works closely with the School District to reach parents and provide resources for home learning.

For more information or to sign up as a ReadingPal in Manatee, email or call 941.748.1313 .

Also create a volunteer profile on our Volunteer portal.

More About Statewide ReadingPals

Where Is ReadingPals Available?

ReadingPals program is available in 27 counties via 17 local United Ways and other community partners, with opportunities in more than 200 schools and childcare centers around the state. We provide over 3,000 students every year with a mentor. ReadingPals is managed by The Children’s Movement of Florida and made possible by Publix Charities and the Barnett family’s passion for promoting literacy and early childhood development in Florida.

What Else Can I Do?

ReadingPals volunteers see the importance of early education firsthand, and gain exposure to the challenges many teachers and students face in the classroom. We hope the ReadingPals experience will inspire our volunteers to become advocates alongside The Children’s Movement, promoting greater investment in Florida’s youngest children. Learn more at