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Literacy mascot visits Panther Vy.

A giant, bespectacled apple mascot sparked smiles and evoked a few giggles in the halls of the Panther Valley Elementary School Friday morning.

The smiling green apple, named Corey, is the mascot for Lehigh Valley Reads, a regional literacy campaign powered by the United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley, which includes Carbon County.

Corey visited classrooms to promote literacy through the Million Minute Challenge, which has a collective goal of reading a million minutes or more throughout the month of March.

“The Million Minute Challenge is a powerful call to action to unite our community around the vital importance of reading,” said Jill Pereira, vice president of Strategic Partnerships at the United Way.

“Together with teachers, families and partners throughout the Lehigh Valley, we’re proud to champion third-grade literacy, a cornerstone for future success,” she said.

Panther Valley Elementary is one of seven United Way Community Schools where volunteers will read to students and Corey will deliver reading materials.

Pereira joined Corey for Friday’s visit and engaged the students, as others passed out goody bags with items to help move the needle on the challenge, which is a partnership with Crayola and Truist.

Volunteers from another United Way partner, St. Luke’s, also participated in the Read Across America and National Reading Month activities at the school, reading to children and handing out reading materials.

“Reading not only fosters a thriving community but also inspires us to reach our fullest potential,” said Khushboo Jain, director, Community Schools Network at the United Way.

“Our mission is to equip every student in the Lehigh Valley with the essential tools to read on grade level by third grade, empowering them to unlock endless opportunities for success,” she said.

Panther Valley is one of the schools that has pledged its minutes to the challenge, stressing the importance of early literacy, said Laura McHugh, United Way spokeswoman.

“When students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade, they are up to 13 times more likely to graduate high school,” she said. “After third grade, the reading gap widens, so those early years make a massive difference.”

The United Way encourages everyone to participate in this regional campaign. Families, school and groups can pledge their minutes online through March 31 at www.unitedwayglv.org/million.

Jill Pereira, of the United Way of Lehigh Valley, which includes Carbon County, joins mascot Corey in encouraging Panther Valley Elementary School students to read, as part of the Million Minute Challenge and Lehigh Valley Reads literacy campaign. KELLY MONITZ SOCHA/TIMES NEWS.
Lehigh Valley Reads mascot, Corey, encouraged children at the Panther Valley Elementary School to read and participate in the Million Minute Challenge, a literacy campaign with a goal of reading a million minutes in the month of March. KELLY MONITZ SOCHA/TIMES NEWS