Resolve to Read

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 stateoffice@readaloudwestvirginia.org .

Happy New Year

Moments of kindness — My Read Aloud story

Read Aloud volunteers see children engage with books and expand their vocabularies and literacy skills, and so much more.

By Jennifer Bonnette Funk

What might seem like a small act of kindness at first can turn out to have a big and positive impact on someone’s world.

Each week on my day off, I read aloud as part of Read Aloud West Virginia. I read to three classrooms at West Preston School. The other day, I was reading a story to one of the classes rather excitedly with silly voices, as I often do, and one of the students handed me a note. She was so proud to give me the letter and was smiling so brightly.

In the note, she wrote, “Dear Mrs. Funk, you are the best reader and the best voice maker. There are no other persons like you. You are the best of the best.” The note included a hand drawn picture of me reading a book to the class.

It was so unexpected and overwhelmingly sweet. I was so moved by her act of kindness, I wrote her a letter back. In the letter, I said that she had made my day much brighter when I read her wonderful letter. Then, I said that getting to read to her and the other students brings me joy and is the highlight of my week.

Continue reading “Moments of kindness — My Read Aloud story”

‘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

Lessons from the research

Here’s what data and experience tell us about closing the word gap and helping West Virginia students to succeed, says Christy Schwartz, of the West Virginia Department of Education’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading:

Keep reading aloud to children from birth to adolescence, and keep educating families about the need to do it. Reading aloud does more for vocabulary development than talking with them, which is also good.

Encourage teachers to read to students daily.

“If children are responding well to a book you’re reading, encourage them to find another in the series, in that genre or by the same author that the teacher might read with them,” she said.

Continue reading “Lessons from the research”

Readers, we want to hear from you!

The end of the school year is a bittersweet time for Read Aloud volunteers. Your dedication and commitment to read to a classroom of children every week has likely yielded dividends, from conversations with students who are excited about reading to big smiles and hugs in the classroom. You might even have received handmade cards from students saying how important you were to the class, recalling favorite stories, and asking you to continue reading next year.

Readers might be sad to say goodbye or ready for a well-deserved hiatus (or perhaps some combination of these). Meanwhile, Read Aloud West Virginia staff is already looking to and preparing for August. That’s why Read Aloud asks volunteer readers to accomplish one more task by completing an end-of-year reader survey.

These quick surveys ask about your experience as a Read Aloud volunteer and your plans for the following school year. When Read Aloud school coordinators return to school in the fall, the state Read Aloud office provides a report that helps coordinators place returning readers into classrooms as soon as possible, as well as identify how many new readers each school needs.

If Read Aloud West Virginia has a valid email address for you, the survey should have arrived in your inbox around the beginning of June. Paper copies will be mailed to those with no email address on record. If you were an active volunteer reader during the 2017-2018 school year and you do not receive a survey by email or mail, please contact Marsha Hoyer at (304) 345-5212 or email mhoyer@readaloudwestvirginia.org.

Thank you, readers, for the gift you have given to more than 33,000 children in West Virginia this school year!