ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Only 32% of children in Winnebago County read at or above their grade level, according to the United Way.

On Thursday, the organization launched a new program, “United for Literacy” with a goal of increasing that percentage to 75% by 2034.

To accomplish that, United Way says advocates will use parental engagement, caregiver support, and community awareness.

“It’s going to take all of us, right? This is not a school issue. This is not, like someone was saying, this isn’t just parents,” said United Way of Rock River Valley president Julie Bosma. “This is libraries, this is community centers, this is churches, this is neighborhoods. Yes, this is school districts, but it’s everybody coming together and working on this together. Again, when we’re talking about kids that are birth-to-5 [years old], needing to know their alphabet and be able to count to ten when they hit those school doors [is important] so that schools can do their magic with them. It’s going to take all of us.”

The initiative will impact thousands of children and their families in Winnebago County with collaborative and connected programs and resources that include books and literacy kits for newborn families at SwedishAmerican and Mercyhealth, the recruitment and retention of tutors at Boys & Girls Club of Rockford, the addition of book vending machines at Crusader Clinic, various reading and school readiness programs at local churches, Discovery Center, Patriots Gateway Center, Rockford Park District, the Rockford and Cherry Valley public libraries, and more.

The Uniter Way is also putting out a challenge to the community to give back with monetarily or with their time, such as by reading to kids. There are multiple ways to volunteer.