Emerging Readers

In the State of Wisconsin, 49% of youth do not read at a proficient level. In an effort to promote literacy and put books into the hands of those children in need, the Emerging Leaders launched the Emerging Readers program. This program provides a simple opportunity for busy individuals or families to make an impact in the life of a child at one of our local partner agencies by sharing the joy of reading and opening worlds of possibilities.

Opportunity Overview

  • Participate in a book donation 4x a year
    • October 21, as school begins.
    • December 9, around the holidays.
    • February 10, heading into spring time.
    • April 21, before school lets out to help combat summer slide.
  • Get matched with a child at one of our partner agencies
  • Choose age-appropriate, new or gently-used reading materials for the child and their family.
  • Prepare a reading package for the partner family that United Way will distribute
    • Consider including hand-written notes of encouragement or book reviews to accompany the reading selections.


This year, 204 local children were matched with 142 United Way donors. Children receiving books were between the ages of 2-12 and participate in youth programming at the following agency program partner agencies: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Milwaukee, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, COA Youth & Family Centers, Parents Place, and the United Community Center.

Since its inception, this program has provided nearly 10,000 books to over 800 youth in the Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha community!

Get Involved

  • 2016-2017 Emerging Reader Registration is closed.
  • Registration for the 2017-2018 academic year will open in July; please check back then to register!
  • Other ways to get involved: ​
    • Search for more literacy-related volunteer opportunities on Volunteers United
    • Consider donating new or gently used children's books to United Way to supplement this program


Contact Callai Reed via email or at 414.263.8320 with any questions.



Open All
 Who can participate?

Anyone interested in donating books to a child(ren). Sign up as individual and/or provide books as a family!

 How many books do I provide?

We typically recommend 2-3 books per child per book donation.

 What information do I receive?

First names and children’s ages are the only information exchanged. Children’s interests are requested, you may also receive this information.

 Am I matched with the same child throughout the year?


 Do I need to sign-up every year or am I automatically registered?

You will need to register each year. Registration begins in July and runs through October until all agency participants are matched.

 Who receives the books?

We work with United Way Partner Agencies to manage this program and ensure that the child signed up receives the books donated by their volunteer.

 What are the book drop-off dates?

Book donations take place four times throughout the school year.

  • October, as school begins.
  • December, over the holidays.
  • February, heading into spring time.
  • April, before school lets out to help combat summer slide. 
© 2017 United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County