Monterey County Reads received an Angel Network Award in conjunction with the Oprah's Book Club selection East of Eden.

As a service to the surrounding community, the Panetta Institute is coordinating the Monterey County Reads program in partnership with the county's Office of Education. Launched in 1997, this effort has already become one of the most successful of its kind in the state, having trained almost 1,300 volunteers who have spent above 57,000 hours in helping more than 16,000 children improve their reading skills.

The effort is backed by the Monterey County Reads (MCR) consortium, which consists of school districts, institutions of higher education, the Monterey County Office of Education, public and private high schools, youth organizations, a team of AmeriCorps*VISTA members, and the Panetta Institute for Public Policy.

Under the direction of Institute director Sylvia Panetta, the dedicated team of AmeriCorps* VISTA members is guiding volunteers who provide one-to-one reading to students in kindergarten through third grade throughout Monterey County.

MCR recruits reading volunteers from businesses, community organizations, churches, hospitals, military installations, law enforcement groups, and government offices. There are several special projects sponsored by the consortium that further support the mission of this program.

"What are children going to do if they can't read?" says Mrs. Panetta. "That's so basic." She notes that 40 percent of America's fourth graders can't read at grade level.

With the help of the AmeriCorps*VISTA team, MCR has developed a Saturday Storytime at local community libraries and is expanding the event to other areas. MCR also has created a reading program at the Natividad Medical Center where auxiliary volunteers read to pediatric outpatients. High school student volunteers are also recruited for after school and summer school reading programs.

"Our goal," notes Dr. Nancy Kotowski of the county Office of Education, "is to have all children reading on or above grade level by the end of third grade."

Contact Information
Sylvia Panetta
Monterey County Reads
c/o The Panetta Institute
California State University, Monterey Bay
100 Campus Center, Bldg. 86E
Seaside, CA 93955
Phone: 831-582-4200

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