Reading is FUNdamental: UPMC Mentors Promote Literacy

By: Taylor Andres

Last week, UPMC kicked off a partnership with Reading is FUNdamental (RIF) through a reading mentorship program that will pair 39 UPMC employees with kindergarteners from the Manchester Academic Charter School. Once a week, throughout the school year, the students will visit their UPMC mentors at the U.S. Steel Tower for sessions focused on building meaningful relationships through conversations, good books and literacy-based activities.

“This enables UPMC employees to take an active role in contributing to the successful futures of some of our children here in Pittsburgh,” said James Taylor, Ph.D., chief diversity, inclusion and talent management officer at UPMC. “Teaching our students to read at a young age, and in a positive environment, will foster their enthusiasm for learning and better prepare them for employment as they grow up.”

“As chairman of the board of RIF, I’m so excited that UPMC is partnering with RIF. My wife Lenette and I have always had a passion for reading. Helping children to get an opportunity like this can really be life changing,” said Dr. Francis X. Solano, president, UPMC Community Medicine Inc.

According to Literacy Pittsburgh, low literacy or total illiteracy in adulthood can have unintended consequences such as low self-esteem, poor financial stability and unemployment.

“Reading has always been such an important and special part of my life. It will be incredible to help a child find the same moments of joy, solace, respite, enlightenment and adventure through reading that I’ve experienced myself,” said Jessica Buechli, director of learning and development at UPMC, who is one of the 39 RIF mentors. “Reading is fun and essential for endless learning and freedom. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves and others.”

UPMC’s support of the kindergarteners of Manchester Academic Charter of School will further the mission of RIF — the largest nonprofit children’s and family literacy organization in the United States.

“I wanted to be involved with RIF before I even knew the details of the program — I love reading, I love working with children and I had been looking for a volunteer opportunity of this nature for some time,” said Rebecca Fisher, a communications specialist II in UPMC’s public relations department, another RIF mentor. “I’m hoping that through the program, I can build a strong, ongoing relationship with my student, help them learn to love reading and possibly even learn some new skills myself.”

For further information on RIF and other volunteer opportunities, contact the UPMC Center For Engagement and Inclusion.