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posted: 6/18/2012 6:00 AM

Help United Way of Lake County collect books for low-income children

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Page it Forward is Lake County's largest summer-long book drive, spearheaded by United Way of Lake County.

Last year, the goal of the campaign was to collect 100,000 books for low-income children in Lake County through a summer-long book drive with a contemporary twist.

UWLC ended up surpassing its goal and collected 154,000 books. The goal this summer for Page it Forward 2.0 is to collect 200,000 books.

United Way of Lake County's kindergarten readiness assessment of incoming kindergartners' skills in Waukegan found that 76 percent of Waukegan 6-year-olds had no knowledge of books.

Furthermore, research by the U.S. Department of Education indicates that 61 percent of low-income homes have no age-appropriate reading material for children. Reading is the most important skill a child needs to learn, but children can't become proficient readers without access to books.

Page it Forward 2.0 will officially kick off Thursday, June 21, in conjunction with United Way Worldwide's National Day of Action. Throughout the day, Trustmark in Lake Forest and Aon Hewitt in Lincolnshire will be hosting corporate challenge collection sites for donated books.

A third corporate challenge collection site will be July 19 at United Conveyor in Waukegan. The corporate challenge is open to all businesses in Lake County. Businesses that sign up to participate are provided with tool kits that help them run their own book drives. The books that each business collects are then dropped off to one of the three corporate challenge sites.

The three businesses that donate the most books will receive a custom Page it Forward traveling trophy, bragging rights for the year and special recognition at UWLC's Annual Leadership Breakfast in the fall.

In addition to two corporate challenges June 21, UWLC will host a speed-reading competition at Barnes & Noble in Vernon Hills at 10 a.m. Local community figures, including George McCaskey of the Chicago Bears, Haynes Johns of WXLC radio and three other prominent figures in Lake County, will be competing in front of an audience and a panel of judges to see who is the best speed reader in Lake County. The public is welcome to attend.

Throughout the summer, there will also be several other community locations throughout Lake County that will be accepting donations for Page it Forward 2.0, including First Midwest Bank locations, Starbucks locations, and local farmers markets and park districts. The full list can be viewed at www.pageitforward.org.

In addition to these "on-site" book drives, United Way of Lake County offers a set of social media options to make contributing toward the goal of 200,000 books through the Page it Forward 2.0 campaign accessible.

Whether it's collecting donations through custom Peer-to-Peer fundraising tools, texting the word "PAGE" to 85944 to donate $10 to childhood literacy, or "liking" Page it Forward at www.facebook.com/pageitforward, everyone in the community has an opportunity to support this cause in their own unique way.

Patch.com, an online media source, is also sponsoring Page it Forward 2.0 through social media efforts. Patch is donating one book for every "Like" that the Page it Forward Facebook page receives. This provides all residents of Lake County with and easy, effective way to contribute books to Page it Forward 2.0.

Other Page it Forward 2.0 sponsors include 102.3 WXLC, BMO Harris Banks and Waukegan Tire.

"We are very excited to kick off Page it Forward 2.0 in Lake County," said Kristi Long, president and CEO of the United Way of Lake County.

"United Way of Lake County is confident that we can meet our goal of collecting 200,000 books with the help of residents and businesses in our community, which will mean that over 33,000 low-income children will have books to call their own."

For details, including volunteer opportunities, downloadable materials and the latest updates, visit www.pageitforward.org.

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