Providing Education to Youth

United Way Supports Youth Education

United Way makes sure children and youth can start school ready to succeed, become proficient readers at a young age, stay on track in middle school, earn their high school diploma.

Education is a cornerstone for success in school, work and life. It also benefits the whole community: high school graduates have higher earning potential, contribute more to their local economies, are more engaged in their communities, and are more likely to raise kids who also graduate on time.

United Way adopts a comprehensive approach to education that spans all the way from cradle to career. The path to success begins early, and we provide a strong foundation through initiatives such as Born Learning—which has helped more than 15 million parents, grandparents and caregivers turn everyday moments into fun, educational opportunities for young kids.  


United Way of Portage County Education Programs 

Imagine a world where every child has books...

With Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, they can! The Imagination Library helps set children up for success by putting books into the hands and hearts of children across the world.Dolly Parton's Imagination Library Ohio logo

Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader

Children who grow up with books are inspired to dream more, do more, and be more! Through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, kids in Portage County can receive a free book every month until they’re five years old. Kids may add up to 60 books in their personal library!

Enroll your children today by clicking this link and start building your child’s free personal library!

United Way brings Literacy Kits to Portage Learning Centers.

United Way of Portage County is proud to partner with Kent State University in providing Literacy Kits to Portage County kindergarteners and Head Start students. The kits include a children’s storybook paired with a hands-on activity created to improve early grade reading, encourage the love of reading and generate long-term school success. 

United Way of Portage County offers warm thanks to Barb Boltz, Project Director of Student Affairs at Kent State, and Kent State University staff and student volunteers who donate their time putting the Literacy Kits together.  

The Literacy Kit program encourages early grade reading by making the experience fun. United Way has secured support from the Giving Well Family Foundation, the George L. and Genevieve D. Moore Trust through the Portage Foundation as well as other grants to make these literacy kits available to kindergarten students engaged with United Way of Portage County's Reading Role Models program and students in Head Start programs through Portage Learning Centers.

If you'd like to become a sponsor our Literacy Kits, fill out our sponsorship form here.

Smaller donations can also help us continue this valuable program. Click on the link below and include "Portage County Literacy Kits" in the comments section.

Literacy Kit for Buzz Said the Bee

Encourage Early Grade Reading 

Far too many children in Portage County struggle to read. Reading proficiency by the third grade is an essential step toward increasing the number of children who succeed academically and do well in life and career. United Way is looking for volunteers to be Reading Role Models, people who can share the love and importance of reading to local students.  Interested volunteers please complete the Sign-up and Release Forms below.  



Reading Role Model Volunteer Release Form      Reading Role Model Volunteer Guidebook

Tools and Tips for Reading with Children            Suggested Books

Head Start Volunteer Form                                    Head Start Location Detail

Reading Role Model Agenda                                  Reading Role Model Flier


Individuals interested in volunteering should complete the sign-up below as well as a release form for United Way.  


I Would Like to Become a Reading Role Model 

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Books for Children

The Big Red Bookshelf project places bright red bookshelves, stocked with new or gently-used books appropriate for children ages birth - 3rd grade, in the community where families with young children visit. These books have been donated by community members. Children are invited to take a book home to keep and share!  View the current Big Red Bookshelf locations list here.

Donate Books 

Bring your gently-used or new children’s books—appropriate for children ages birth to 3rd grade—to our office.  Books can be delivered Monday - Friday 8:00-4:00 PM at United Way 999 East Main St. Ravenna, OH (second floor of the Chemical Bank bldg).

Host a Book Drive

Coordinate your efforts with your co-workers, family, neighbors or community groups to conduct a book drive. Donated books will be used to create new bookshelves and re-stock existing locations. 

Build a Shelf

Are you good with your hands?  Would you like to help promote the love of reading?  Volunteer to build the next Big Red Bookshelf and help bring the love of reading to children in Portage County.  Click HERE for a complete set of building plans and material list.  NOTE: the paint should be Sherwin Williams Real Red #SW6868.


BRB Flyer                       BRB Photo Gallery

BRB Locations               Donation Intake Form

Book Placement Form    Agency Report Form

Bookshelf Building Plans

Big Red Bookshelf Interest Form



 Feed your child's appetite for learning

Ravenna Born Learning Trail

Parents and caregivers of young children understand that the early years are important, yet many aren’t sure how to encourage early learning or feel they don’t have time to do what it takes to help their child succeed in school. Many communities are concerned about children coming to school unprepared but aren’t coming together to give parents more choices or children more opportunities. Born Learning is designed as a tool for long-lasting community change that supports young children.


  • Awareness and Education – Providing easy, fun action steps that parents, grandparents and caregivers can use every day. Educational material provided by Born Learning makes it simple and easy for parents, grandparents, informal caregivers and professional child care providers to find, understand and apply the latest research to help children come to school ready to succeed. The material helps parents make learning fun and take advantage of everyday moments.
  • Action – Providing a visible platform for public policy and action. Born Learning puts research-driven products - along with tools and templates for education and outreach – into communities through a national grassroots network that’s creating innovative ideas to help local children. We’re supporting a mobilization effort that helps any community’s early learning efforts, providing tools, templates and training, along with more intensive national support for targeted communities or states.

Our goal is to inspire everyone who impacts young children to make the best possible decisions to boost school readiness. We aim to give each of them the tools to make long-lasting community change.

This Place Needs More Graduates 


United Way of Portage County’s Education Advisory Council is an official advisory council to United Way’s Community Impact Committee.  The Education Advisory Council plays an important role in identifying educational needs in Portage County and making intervention recommendations to United Way’s Board of Trustees.


The needs, strategies and recommendations made by the Education Advisory Council will be used by United Way to better align United Way funded programs, volunteers and activities with identified needs and evidence based best practices.  As a result United Way and our funded programs will be more effective and efficient are meeting our most important needs.  



Education Advisory Council Member Job Description Education Advisory Council Member Flyer