Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Announces Bright Spot Community


United Way of Lake County, Community Contributor

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading announced that it has named Waukegan, Illinois as a 2021 Bright Spot Community for United Way of Lake County's responses to the COVID crisis last year. Waukegan is the only community in Illinois to be recognized.

United Way of Lake County has long played a leadership role in early education programming and grade-level reading campaigns in Waukegan and other target communities. It is committed to building an equitable future where all children have every opportunity to succeed. United Way's education programs have delivered measurable results that are launching children on the path to lifelong success. Its Reading Success program has helped children build literacy skills to ensure they can read at grade level by the end of third grade. First grade students in Reading Success gained 20 points more than their non-tutored peers. This equates to students improving by 37.7% over classmates at the same reading level who did not receive extra one-on-one tutoring.

"We are grateful for all United Way of Lake County is doing to support the children, families, and schools in Waukegan during the COVID crisis," said Bob Saffold with Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. "The Bright Spots review team cited United Way's exemplary work in recruiting volunteers to serve as online tutors for recognition."

Specifically, CLGR is highlighting communities that developed exemplary or innovative responses to the COVID crisis, including new or adaptive roles, programs, organizational relationships/collaborations, policies and/or resources. In particular, the Campaign is recognizing communities for crafting solutions that seem especially effective, replication-worthy and/or deserving of being sustained during the post-COVID period.


United Way of Lake County recognized the critical need to address learning loss and social isolation during the pandemic, especially for students of color, and responded by adapting its Success By 6 early education programs and Reading Success literacy program to deliver virtually. Reading Success also expanded to include kindergarten students, exposing them to the basics of reading in preparation for early school success. Additionally, a new Bright by Text offering was launched to provide expert-coaching and more support for parents at their fingertips. To ensure access to remote learning, United Way distributed 450 Chromebooks to Waukegan families in need.

"This has been an especially challenging time, yet our collaborative efforts with Waukegan Public Schools allowed us to continue to provide children with the tools they need to be successful in school by adapting our programs and delivering them virtually with the support of our many dedicated volunteer reading tutors," said Sue Baehr, Reading Success Program Manager at United Way of Lake County. "We appreciate this national recognition and validation of the work we are doing in the community. Our team looks forward to not only sharing our experiences but continuing to learn from other Bright Spot communities about how they've navigated the challenges caused by COVID-19."

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, CGLR has grown to include more than 300 communities, representing 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and two provinces in Canada — with 5,000+ local organizations and 510 state and local funders (including 200+ United Ways). To learn more, visit and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.

About United Way of Lake County

At United Way of Lake County, we believe that preparing children to thrive in school is the best way to disrupt the cycle of poverty. That's why we engage in activities that are ensuring children are ready for their first day of school, building children's early literacy skills, helping youth overcome barriers to high school graduation and empowering families to develop a strong foundation for their child's future success. United Way of Lake County recently launched 211, a free, confidential, 24-hour information and referral helpline, connecting individuals and families in Lake County to essential health and human services, to improve and save lives.

Through the support of our partners and supporters, we are transforming communities by delivering programs that are timely, effective and scalable, with results we can measure. For more information, visit

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