The entire education continuum, from birth through 21, must be in our collective cross hairs if we want to move the needle on high school graduation. The economic impact of high school dropouts is something that can’t be ignored. Educated workers are far less likely to become dependent on public money and health services, they are also likely to be involved in the criminal justice system.

Getting ahead of these challenges requires an early start, so we’re focusing on childhood literacy and the provision of learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.


The United Way of Greater Newark’s My Very Own Library (MVOL) literacy program encourages and supports students’ love of reading by providing them the opportunity to choose brand new, free books to build their own home libraries. MVOL is rooted in research indicating that students foster a life-long love of reading and demonstrate stronger literacy skills as they build home libraries.

The following components are key factors in the effective My Very Own Library program model: Book fair events, free books, family engagement, author visits, and additional literacy resources. Partner organizations include WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM, Butterfly Dreamz Workshop, New Jersey State Library, Newark Public Library and Scholastic.

During the 2016-2017 school year, My Very Own Library will give away more than 165,000 FREE NEW books to 16,500 students at these 26 Newark Public Schools.


Celebrity Read is a long-standing literacy initiative created by United Way of Greater Newark in 1990, with a primary goal of recruiting volunteers to model their love for reading from pre-k to 4th grade elementary classrooms in its service area. In recognition of the program’s unique service to the community, it has been designated as a “Local Legacy” by the Library of Congress in 2001.

United Way believes that everyone can be a “celebrity” in the life of a child and by volunteering time to read to children at participating schools during the month of February. If you are part of a company/organization, we welcome you to adopt a school by recruiting a minimum of 10 volunteers from your workplace to represent you at a school.