Virtual Books: The Kind of Screen Time We Can All Get Behind | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Virtual Books: The Kind of Screen Time We Can All Get Behind

A new partnership between United Way and Atmos Energy promotes the kind of screen time we can all get behind

Parents, guardians and early education teachers in North Texas can get a free one-year subscription to animated storybook platform Vooks

When it comes to literacy, getting an early, strong start is critical—and turning a page has a positive ripple effect. That’s why United Way and Atmos Energy have teamed up with Vooks to support North Texas parents and kids with early reading efforts.

Data from the American Journal of Public Health, the National Council for Adult Learning and other sources, shows low literacy costs U.S. businesses and taxpayers more than $225 billion annually through lost wages, unemployment and government assistance. It adds $230 billion to the annual cost of healthcare in our country. And those who cannot read well are less likely to vote or become involved in community and civic activities.

According to early childhood experts at United Way, research says kids who enter school ready to learn have a greater chance of reading proficiently by third grade, and students who read on-level by third grade are five times more likely to graduate ready for success in college or career. Those early learning years impact income and health for a person’s whole life. And the more kids who learn to read early, the better off their communities are.

“Education opens doors, broadens horizons and sets kids up for success — and reading is the gateway to education, starting from an early age,” says McDermott-Templeton President and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Jennifer Sampson. “That’s why United Way has partnered with Atmos Energy and Vooks to inspire thousands of North Texas children with the love of reading.

In November, Atmos Energy contributed $1 million to provide approximately 78,000 one-year Vooks subscriptions to Dallas-area families and teachers. “We are focused on nurturing bright minds and healthy futures for our kids, with an emphasis on helping students read on-level by third grade,” says Atmos Energy Mid-Tex Division President John Paris. “Through our Fueling Safe and Thriving Communities program, United Way and Vooks are the perfect partners to help us achieve the greatest community impact.”

The partnership also works toward United Way’s Aspire United 2030 education goal of increasing by 50% the number of North Texas students reading on grade level by third grade. This will likely prove especially important for children who’ve suffered a learning slide due to the challenging pandemic-altered school year.

Reading is transformative

The many reasons to read reach far beyond attaining better grades. Yes, reading helps improve vocabulary, memory and focus, critical thinking skills, analytical skills and writing skills — all critical for success in many aspects of life. But it also helps build confidence and allows children to get to know other people, other cultures and their own emotions. Reading builds empathy and broadens perspectives. Books are windows to other worlds and our own hearts.

Vooks is the world’s first streaming service dedicated to animated storybooks for kids. It takes popular children’s books and adds movement, sound and narration. By transforming stories into cartoons, Vooks promotes engagement, stirs imaginations and boosts literacy in children who may not have books at home or caregivers to read to them. Created for children ages 3 to 6, the Vooks app works with smartphones and tablets, as well as Apple TV, Roku and Fire TV. You can also stream it via the web.

“Establishing a love of reading from an early age is fundamental to lifelong learning,” says Vooks co-founder and CEO Marshall Bex. “Literacy opens doors and opportunities, and children without access to books are at an educational disadvantage. This partnership is a step toward bridging the gap.”

2 ways to give the gift of reading

Parents and guardians of children in Dallas and surrounding areas and early education teachers who work in North Texas can sign up for a one-year subscription to Vooks now. Subscriptions are free to anyone with kids ages 3-6.

In addition, anyone seeking an easy way to have a direct impact on the education of a child can invest in United Way’s Once Upon a Month program. A $36 donation provides a child with one book a month for a year, along with parent guides in English and Spanish. Since May 2017, more than 10,000 children have received books through the program.

Learn more about United Way’s education initiatives and impact.

This article was published on: Dec 16, 2020