Berkeley County volunteer lights up kindergarten, second-grade classrooms

Betty Cuthbert looked up and realized she had been reading to Berkeley County school children for 25 years, with no plans to slow down.

By Bob Fleenor

Betty Cuthbert was surprised to realize she’s been a volunteer reader at Berkeley Heights Elementary School in Martinsburg for the past quarter century.

“I didn’t know it had been 25 years. If you enjoy it, you don’t count (the years),” she said. “I feel sorry for people who spend their time doing nothing.”

Cuthbert is one of approximately 175 Read Aloud West Virginia volunteers who visit Berkeley County classrooms each week.

Cuthbert, a native of Queens, N.Y., is one of Read Aloud’s longest-tenured readers. She and Bob, her husband of 55 years, moved to Berkeley County about 30 years ago when Bob took a job at Dulles International Airport.

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Brookfield Renewable gives $15,000 for local youth programs


Montgomery — Brookfield Renewable has donated $15,000 to Read Aloud West Virginia to support literacy for the children of West Virginia.

“As a member of the West Virginia community, and particularly the Fayette County and Montgomery areas, we are proud to be able to make this donation,” said Andrew Davis, Brookfield Renewable Director of Stakeholder Relations, North America.

“Read Aloud West Virginia has done tremendous work in promoting the importance of reading among the youth of West Virginia by keeping books in children’s hands and by teaching them how reading is not only a valuable life skill, but how fun and enjoyable it is,” Davis said.

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Show, don’t tell: Poetry, relevance sell middle schoolers on reading

 

By Dawn Miller

“What would you say to the kids in the room to encourage them to read?” Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander was asked at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston.

“I wouldn’t say anything,” Alexander answered.

“Who wants to be told? If you really want to connect and make somebody feel engaged, show them. That’s the real way to reach anybody. Make them feel something.”

From one of the readers in the crowd, Alexander borrowed a copy of his novel Rebound, a story about a 12-year-old boy who is dealing with loss, who can’t play basketball, but wishes he could. “This is what I would do,” he said, and recited an excerpt from the novel, which like all his books, is written in almost singable poetry.

It’s so singable, Alexander’s musician best friend Randy Preston, a retired teacher, brought hs guitar and sang a song from it. The two perform together now. They have visited almost 900 schools in the last three years.

“I don’t think you have to tell kids why they need to read,” Alexander said. “I think you’ve got to show them.”

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BAM! stores in WV to donate 10 percent of sales to Read Aloud on Oct. 27

At all Books-a-Million stores in West Virginia on Oct. 27, tell the cashier you want to support Read Aloud West Virginia, and the store will donate 10 percent of the purchase amount to help Read Aloud put books on the minds and in the hands of West Virginia children.

Stores in Barboursville, Beckley, Bluefield, Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Charleston, Vienna and Wheeling are participating in Books-a-Million’s Bookfair Program with Read Aloud for the third time. In Charleston, both stores at Dudley Farms Plaza on Corridor G and in the Charleston Town Center mall are participating.

Read Aloud volunteers will be in stores on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 to answer questions, share information and sign up volunteers.

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‘Tell me all the books’

I am typically a newsletter editor’s nightmare — waiting until the last minute to turn in my article. There is a reason for that. Invariably, close to deadline something will happen which crystalizes for me what I want to say. So it is with this issue.

Jennie Fitzkee, blogger extraordinaire and a frequent contributor to this newsletter (see her wonderful article about visiting E.B. White’s farm in this issue) recently sent two posts which dealt with book selection and the “best words from a child.”

The former touched on the most frequently asked question we receive from our volunteers, “What book is best?” To ask me (or any reader!) that question is almost like asking a parent to pick a favorite child — can’t be done! Nevertheless, we know it is an important question that needs to be addressed and this issue is chock full of suggestions from our conference attendees. (In Jennie’s own classroom the early favorite this year is Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny.)  You can also find links to the growing list of favorite titles submitted by Read Aloud volunteers over the years at readaloudwestvirginia.org/book-lists-and-reviews/.

The other post referenced a kindergarten student who, after observing the impressive display of books in Jennie’s room, said, “Jennie, tell me all the books.”

That made me think of our volunteers beginning another school year of “telling” (aka reading) so many books to children and introducing them to new words, new worlds and new authors. Those thoughts led in turn to an article I read this week about one of my very special heroes, Fred Rogers. As you probably know this is the 50th anniversary of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” and he has been the subject of many articles and honors, as well as a commemorative stamp and several documentaries.

That documentary seemed to make everyone leaving the theatre walk a little straighter and smile a little brighter. One of the most touching moments was when those remembering Mr. Rogers were asked to do something he had asked numerous audiences from Congressional committees to college graduates to do. He called it an “invisible gift” as he asked them to take one silent moment to “think about those who have helped you become who you are today.”

It made me think of those who are serving as that person for a child or children in our state now, guiding the next generation. When you read to a child as a volunteer, parent, grandparent, guardian or friend you are adding to who that child will become.

Those of you who support our organization and enable us to offer our programs are also fulfilling that role. You will read about some who are doing that (conferees; Dan Foster). Others may remain anonymous, but it does not diminish the incredibly important role they play. As we start the new school year, know that when you introduce a child to the pleasure of reading you are providing an incredibly important gift.

Also know we are always looking for additional volunteers to join us in our efforts.

— Mary Kay Bond, Executive Director, Read Aloud West Virginia

Read Aloud’s Annual Fund Drive — Why we ask

Letters will arrive in mailboxes any day now — it’s time for Read Aloud West Virginia’s 2018-2019 Annual Fund drive.

Why does a mostly volunteer organization need to raise money?  Read Aloud’s work, even its very existence, depends on funds provided by our wonderful donors. These contributions enable our staff to support local chapters and grow our program.

While volunteer chapters are the face of Read Aloud in their respective communities, we know from experience that they count on an office and staff to support them. We’ve actually tried it the other way with all volunteers. Read Aloud was founded in 1987 but from 2000-2007, we existed without staff, and the number of chapters fell from 53 to four in that time period.

Read Aloud was re-established with a central office in 2007-2008. Quality and involvement have grown steadily since. Today, we serve more than 200 schools in 31 counties.

That progress would not be possible without our generous donors.

Read Aloud routinely evaluates efforts to make sure we put time, effort and money where they do the most good to help West Virginia children grow into successful readers and students. Over time, our activities have been winnowed down to four broad categories: weekly classroom Read Aloud volunteers, distribution of books, classroom enrichment and public education.

During the last school year, Read Aloud volunteers reached 33,000 students across the state. Imagine 33,000 students, week after week, enjoying new books or old favorites, each student seeing a “live commercial” for reading together, just for fun.

As comments from teachers in this newsletter show, students of all ages look forward to this time and “light up” when their Read Aloud reader enters the room.

That is what our donors make possible.

That is why the letters are on their way, to encourage you to consider making a donation to help us continue the work of getting books in the hands and on the minds of West Virginia’s children.

Thank you for reading and for being a Read Aloud supporter.


We have Neighborhood Investment Tax Credits available while they last.

Checks can be made payable to:

Read Aloud West Virginia
P.O. Box 1784
Charleston, WV 25326

Questions? Call 304-345-5212 or email readaloud@frontier.com

Thank you