Advocae file Photo by BRAD BOWIE -- The United Way of Acadiana will hold volunteer training sessions for its United Way Readers program starting this week. In this file photo taken in late November 2013, Donna Tolbert, a United Way Readers volunteer and student Jayden Walker read a book together at Alice Boucher Elementary School in Lafayette. Volunteers commit an hour weekly with a student over a 10-week period as part of the United Way Readers program.

Training sessions for volunteers interested in helping struggling first- and second-grade students in Acadiana improve their reading skills start Wednesday with other sessions planned later this month.

The United Way Readers program partners volunteers with first- and second-grade students for one-hour weekly, read-together sessions at the child’s school.

“This particular program is a much needed service for our community. Reading is at the core of our everyday life,” said Shelia High, who volunteers as a United Way Reader at Ossun Elementary School.

Data from the Picard Center for Child Development and Lifelong Learning on students’ reading fluency showed scores increased for students who participated in the United Way Readers Program — as much as 34 points for first grade students’ between the fall 2013 and spring 2014 testing and by 69 points for second-graders in the same time period, according to the United Way of Acadiana.

In addition, the program helps foster students’ love for reading, said Lindsey Harris, United Way Readers volunteer.

The volunteer program is for one hour a week over a 10-week period in participating Acadia, Lafayette and St. Martin parish schools.

Upcoming trainings are planned on the following dates and times:

Acadia Parish

Wednesday and Jan. 28 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Acadia Parish School Board office’s media meeting room, 2402 N. Parkerson Ave., Crowley.

Lafayette Parish

Wednesday, Jan. 19 and Jan. 28 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the United Way of Acadiana office, 215 E. Pinhook Road, Lafayette.

St. Martin Parish

Thursday and Jan. 22 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at The Early Learning Center, 1004 S. Martin Luther King Drive, St. Martinville.

For information about United Way Readers or to register for a training, visit or contact Chelsey Roberie, senior volunteer mobilization coordinator, at (337) 706-1226 or