Recently, two local utilities, Duke Energy and South Central Indiana REMC partnered to provide a $5,000 grant to the MSD of Martinsville to fund the Real Men Read program. Organized by United Way of Central Indiana, the Real Men Read program is designed to bring positive male mentors into the lives of children and instill a love of reading at an early age.

Books for the program are selected based on reading level and seasonal interest. At the end of each 30-minute reading session, students get to take home a copy of the book to add to their personal libraries.

The books come with teacher and reader guides, which include discussion questions to spark students’ curiosity through storytelling. The program prepares students for first grade and encourages families to read together, particularly men to read to their children,

More than 98 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers are women, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Real Men Read aims to introduce children to male role models at a young age.

The program is part of United Way of Central Indiana’s ongoing work in early childhood education, a major focus of the nonprofit.