Demand is growing. We have more than 400 classrooms across West Virginia who want a Read Aloud reader but don’t yet have one. Can you, your workplace or your organization help us meet that demand to motivate children to WANT to read?
Parents and teachers are making the connection that research shows: Children who read for fun tend to read more, and with that practice, they grow more proficient. This affordable, achievable daily habit pays off throughout school and life.
So, our job as adults is to create that thriving environment for children, where we turn to a book for fun, entertainment, even comfort. One way Read Aloud West Virginia helps children to catch this habit is by modeling reading for fun each week. Read Aloud sends volunteer readers into more than 1,400 classrooms each week to share their love of a good story.
We’re happy to report that demand is growing. We have more than 400 teachers who want one of our readers but don’t yet have one. So here’s the pitch:
1. If you are currently reading in one class and your schedule could handle a second, please let us know. There might be a classroom down the hall that would love to have you. It could be that for the same preparation, you could have double the impact.
2. If you’re enjoying reading, consider recommending Read Aloud to a friend or colleague. Have them send us their contact details, and we will notify them of the next orientation.
3. Consider arranging an orientation. If you can gather 10 or more people at your workplace, church group, book club, college or other organization, we will come to you. After an informative, motivating orientation, we are often able to match readers with classrooms on the spot.
Our volunteer readers go out to do good and help others, but they regularly come back with stories about making connections that they never dreamed of.
In January, we want to fill those vacancies. We want to help those teachers help their students find the right book that opens new worlds for them. Will you Resolve to Read with us? Give us a call at 304-345-5212 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org .
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
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.
Daily read aloud puts children almost a year ahead of children who are not read to every day, literacy specialist Christy Schwartz told a room full of Read Aloud West Virginia volunteers at their fifth annual conference in July.
Schwartz works for the state Department of Education’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading. She and her colleagues support county school systems and teachers to ensure children are reading on grade level by third grade. They focus on school readiness, attendance, learning opportunities outside of school and high-quality instruction.
“I’m really excited by all the connections and the way that our work corresponds with one another,” she told representatives from local Read Aloud chapters meeting at Stonewall Resort July 23 and 24.
Read Aloud leaders were there to connect and share ideas and inspiration for the coming school year. This annual summit has proven to be an invaluable gathering for the organization and its local groups.
Schwartz reminded volunteers of the need they fill.
West Virginia has high rates of poverty, and years of research confirm that poverty is a risk factor for many problems, including poor school readiness. Education researchers have zeroed in on oral language skills.
“It is the foundation for literacy,” Schwartz said.
I read aloud every day in my classroom, and weekly at the library. Picture books are a mainstay, yet reading aloud chapter books can move the world.
Are you surprised? Don’t be. Thirty years of reading Charlotte’s Web is proof, my proof. Every year former students return to be a guest reader. I don’t invite them. They want to come. Their parents pull me aside to tell me their child has become a voracious reader. Many return as high schoolers to volunteer in my class.
If I go back to when they were preschoolers in my class, glued to chapter reading, their favorite book every year was Charlotte’s Web. At the end of each school year we vote on our favorite chapter book, and the winner is always Charlotte’s Web. Always.
My public library hosted a special event, E.B. White’s grandniece speaking about her beloved grand-uncle. The librarian was beside herself to tell me.
“Jennie, she has his typewriter. She’s bringing it. And do you know that she calls him Andy? That’s E.B. White’s nickname.”
I was out of town and unable to attend the event. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. Perhaps E.B. White’s grandniece would see the library poster of me reading Charlotte’s Web.
A week after the big event, the librarian said, “Jennie, E.B. White’s grandniece (Lindsay) would like to meet you. She knows about you, and has heard about how you read aloud Charlotte’s Web.”
Well, that’s about the best invitation I ever had. And so, with a note to me that was addressed, “Salutations, Jennie!” I was invited to her farm for a visit!
Lindsay’s grandfather was E.B. (Andy) White’s brother, Albert. He was the keeper of the letters and memorabilia (most went to Cornell University). He cared. Lindsay inherited her grandfather’s genes, and also much of what he kept. Albert was one of six children. His brother, Andy, was the youngest. Lindsay has the same look and expression as her grandfather in a family photo.
And there I was, standing in a room filled with E.B. White memorabilia. And, with E.B. White’s grandniece. Humbling and exciting. Words escaped me. I felt like Wilbur.
First, there was the typewriter, an Underwood, upon which Andy wrote his books. I don’t know about you, but seeing and touching that typewriter, something real and dear, was a piece of heaven for me.
Alongside is Lindsay’s first edition of Charlotte’s Web, signed to her: “To Lindsay with love from her great-uncle Andy. E.B. White.”
His wife, Katherine, was the love of his life.
“She was a strong woman,” said Lindsay. “She was older than he was, 11 years older. He adored her. His mother was a strong woman, too. She was much older when Andy was born.”
We talked a great deal about Charlotte’s Web. “Would you like to hear a recording of Andy reading the book?” Lindsay asked.
“Of course!” I said.
As we listened to the opening of the book, I found myself whispering the words I knew so well, along with Andy. Yet, I was surprised to hear how he read the story.
”I don’t read aloud the words like that at all. His voice is calm and steady. Mine is emotional.” And so I recited a few sentences aloud. Lindsay smiled.
Then she said, “Do you know it took him 17 takes to read the final chapter, The Last Day? Seventeen. He couldn’t stop crying. You see, in Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur was actually Andy, and Charlotte was his wife Katherine. He was devoted to her and adored her. She was his best friend, as Charlotte was to Wilbur. Reading that chapter aloud brought back all the memories of his wife.”
I did not know that. It makes perfect sense. E.B. White is Wilbur the pig, and his beloved wife Katherine is Charlotte the spider.
Jennie Fitzkee, a preschool teacher for 30 years, is originally from West Virginia, now lives in Massachusetts and is a supporter of Read Aloud West Virginia. This article is abridged from a version that first appeared on her blog,A Teacher’s Reflections.
The West Virginia Library Commission will feature Read Aloud West Virginia’s work on a program that will air during the first week of October on Channel 17 for Suddenlink customers in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
“Libraries Today” airs regularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 a.m., 4:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.; on Wednesdays and Fridays at 4:30 a.m.; and Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The video will also be available on the Library Commission’s YouTube Channel.