Making sure SWVA’s next chapter is a good one

United Way of Southwest Virginia to lead distribution of 50,000 books

Abingdon, VA (May 3, 2018) – United Way of Southwest Virginia held “Abracadabra: The Magic of Reading Revealed” last week, where they revealed their participation in the Campaign for Grade Level Reading in a big way: by announcing their acquisition of 50,000 brand new, high-quality books donated by The Soho Center, a 46-year-old nonprofit in Virginia.

United Way of Southwest Virginia has already arranged for community partners to distribute nearly half of the books. The remaining books are available to organizations and groups who can help distribute 500 or more of them to the appropriate age ranges.

According to the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success, and 61% of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes.

Chrystal Brown, Director of Education for United Way of Southwest Virginia said, “In Southwest Virginia, this book distribution effort seeks to place books in the hands of the region’s youngest citizens, specifically over the summer so they do not lose some of the achievement gains they made during the previous school year. We are looking for organizations who would like to receive 500 or more books as an in-kind donation. These could be churches, civic groups, libraries, employers, schools, or organizations preparing for summer camps or community-wide events.”

The book donation from The Soho Center is valued at over $500,000, which is the largest in-kind donation that United Way of Southwest Virginia has ever received. In turn, it is the largest book distribution effort United Way of Southwest Virginia has ever led.

Jeanna Beker, Founder and Director of The Soho Center said, “Soho believes literacy is crucial to children’s success. We want infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, and school-age children to have the chance to enjoy looking at quality children’s books, hearing them read aloud, and practicing their emerging reading skills. We want to help children love reading.”

Several staff members at United Way are coordinating transport, pickup, and distribution efforts, while community partners Berry Home Centers and Universal Fibers are stepping up to transport and store the pallets of books.

Mary Anne Holbrook, Director of Community Relations for United Way of Southwest Virginia said of the partners, “These companies have a keen understanding that investments in the workforce of tomorrow will provide the greatest return, and we are successful because of all of our partners who, together, are committed to improving the region.”

Brown said, “We’re happy to be the vessel through which these books are distributed. While we’re distributing books, we’re also building partnerships that will strengthen the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading network, and that’s very important for the future of our region. We’d all like to make sure Southwest Virginia’s next chapter is a good one.”

For more information about the book donation, visit

About The Soho Center
The Soho Center promotes children’s literacy, school readiness, grade level reading and school success statewide. To see the scope of Soho’s book giveaways, please visit The Soho Center also provides parents with children’s literacy tips via their National Children’s Literacy website at

About United Way of Southwest Virginia
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers almost 15% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia serves Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit