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For Reading Day, a Lifelong North Texas Educator Returns to School Where She Began Her Career

February 20, 2024

This year’s United Way Reading Day will be bigger and more impactful than ever before—and we don’t say that lightly. On March 1, more than 1,000 volunteers will visit 20,000 students across 42 school campuses to inspire and change the lives of our next generation of leaders.

We’ve called on, and are still calling on, neighbors from all walks of life to make the big day an event to remember.

One person who answered our call was Dr. Harryette Ehrhardt, who spotted our call for volunteers in The Dallas Morning News. We’re head over heels to welcome her as a reader.

“The opportunity to read to children is a pleasure for me,” Dr. Ehrhardt says. I looked at the schools and amazingly the school where I taught first grade was available.”

“Many of us are looking for ways that we can make a contribution, and this is one of those,” she continues. 

It’s fun to read to children. Young children are like sponges—they just soak up everything. You have the opportunity to actually watch children learn while you’re reading to them, which is an exciting experience.
Dr. Harryette Ehrhardt

As a lifelong educator who taught every grade but the fourth, Dr. Ehrhardt has built an impressive resume as a change-maker in the community.

In addition to serving as a teacher, principal and trustee for Dallas ISD, she served four terms as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, had the library at Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. Middle School in Dallas named in her honor, and even taught children’s literature to our Honorary Reading Day Chair, Mrs. Laura Bush, at Southern Methodist University.

“I remember many of my favorite professors, including my favorite literature professor, Dr. Harryette Ehrhardt, who’s still a friend of mine,” Mrs. Bush said during her commencement speech congratulating the SMU Class of 2009. “Her children’s literature class inspired me to become a librarian. The books I read in her class I later read to children in my own classrooms, and to children in the classrooms I’ve visited across our country and around the world.”

Books have the power to change lives. They enable students to dream big, gain knowledge and soak up new perspectives. No one knows this better than Dr. Ehrhardt.

“You can use a book to go anywhere in the world, any time, any place in history,” she says. “And to give children that resource is to give them something to carry on with their lifelong learning.”

Four Ways to Support Early Literacy Right Here in North Texas

  • Register to volunteer. Volunteer for Reading Day on March 1, and help spark a love of reading that could last a lifetime. Sign up to read by February 25.
  • Customize a Reading Day bookmark. Share the magic of books by creating your own personalized bookmark to give to a lucky student.
  • Donate books. This year, we’re giving books to participating children to inspire early reading. Click our Amazon wish list to purchase books to donate.
  • Invest in Once Upon a Month. A gift of just $6/month will provide two young children with a free book each month for an entire year.

United Way Reading Day presented by Atmos Energy is the first event in our Aspire United Volunteer Series presented by Texas Instruments. Stay tuned for many more exciting opportunities to get involved and make an impact as we march toward our Centennial.


Register to Volunteer for United Way Reading Day

Change lives with Dr. Harryette Ehrhardt by encouraging early literacy on March 1.

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