Guest Readers Month Engages Residents, Champions Early Childhood Literacy

Community & Services

With an ambitious goal of attracting 1,000 community volunteers into its classrooms, Orange County Head Start is ready to kick off its 2024 Guest Readers Month Campaign.

Observed annually throughout the month of April, the campaign champions early childhood literacy by inviting area residents to Head Start centers for a classroom reading. Organizers say this year’s goal of 1,000 guest readers speaks to their faith in Orange County residents stepping up to contribute to the growth and development of Head Start students.

Guest Readers Month provides a unique opportunity to educate and involve partners, community leaders, elected officials, hometown heroes and local celebrities,” said Sonya Hill, director, Orange County Head Start, Community and Family Services Department. “They step into a classroom and gain insight into the wonderful work happening here, and our hope is their visit sparks a lasting relationship, turning them into volunteers who help spread the word about our programs.”

With more than 860 guest-reader volunteers in 2023, the campaign more than doubled its previous volunteer record. An Orange County Head Start mainstay for nearly 30 years, Hill asserts the annual occasion gives Central Floridians from all walks of life an opportunity to take part in the children’s educations.

Guest readers in 2023 included Congressman Darren Soto, Orange County Administrator Byron Brooks and a number of Orange County Commissioners.

With just over 1,500 students enrolled in its 23 centers, Orange County Head Start is widely regarded as Central Florida’s preeminent early childhood education program for low-income families. The program has been consistently recognized for unique, innovative initiatives – such as Guest Readers Month – that seek to increase community and parent engagement.

The campaign also emphasizes the significance of early literacy by introducing books and fostering a love for reading from an early age,” said Hill, who has served as director since 2016 and was a former Orange County Head Start student. “So, bring your smiles, hugs and funny voices, and take a child on a delightful journey through storytelling.”

Residents interested in volunteering to become a guest-reader volunteer can call 407-836-6590.

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