The YMCA READS! program provides the resources necessary to help improve the reading levels of children in kindergarten to third grade while developing greater self-esteem and social skills. Trained volunteers provide reading instruction in groups of one or two children using the SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phoneme Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) curriculum.

Students who participate in YMCA READS! are referred by the partner schools’ principals, reading or data coaches, guidance counselors and/or students’ teachers. Each student has been identified by a professional educator as “at-risk” and in need of additional reading skill development for successful grade level promotion. Each year, program assessments show improvements. The children’s reading levels are assessed at the beginning and throughout the program using the Florida Assessment for Instruction in Reading (iReady) test.

Factors such as students’ participation in the Free or Reduced Lunch or English Language Development Programs are also considered when students are referred to YMCA READS! Each child has a School Referral Form on file indicating the reading level and reason for referral.

Each student enrolled in YMCA READS! is expected to receive a minimum of two one-hour individualized sessions per week with a mentor. Each student’s reading level is assessed to provide targeted instruction. Student progress is monitored quarterly through curriculum and school assessments, but the biggest measurement is by what their families have to say about the program.

“I just want to let you know how grateful we are to have Yreads at Parkwood Heights Elementary School. I feel this program reinforces all that is learned in the classroom. I see the difference in my grandson in the few short months he has attended. It helps reinforce all he has learned in the classroom such as learning site words. numbers, fine motor skills and social skills. My grandson asks us every morning if he is going to Yreads, he loves it. And I have to say Ms Whitsell and her crew are awesome with the children!” 

-Angela Perrera

YMCA READS! began in August 2005 when the Florida Department of Education granted $1.5 million to the Florida State Alliance of YMCAs. The YMCA of Florida’s First Coast matches the grant dollars received with funds raised through the Annual Campaign and United Way of Northeast Florida. In a 2014 survey, 100% of parents and teachers who responded found the program beneficial in improving students’ reading.


Kings Trail Elementary

7401 Old Kings Road South
Jacksonville, FL 32217

Spring Park Elementary

2250 Spring Park Road
Jacksonville, FL 32207

Brookview Elementary

10450 Theresa Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32246

Program Director: Soni Robles, SRobles@fcymca.org.


Giving the time to mentor a child in reading can have an enormous impact on their life. Your involvement in YMCA READS! can do more than teach reading skills. It can boost self-esteem, imagination, increase a child’s ability to succeed in the classroom and make a big difference in their life.

No experience is necessary. Training and ongoing support will be provided for you. Student volunteers can earn community service hours while gaining experience working with children in an educational setting. Adult volunteers can gain experience to further their careers, enhance an interest or simply receive satisfaction for giving back to the community. A minimum of only one hour per week is required.

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