Impact: Volunteers, educators gather to help WV children succeed

By Bethany Kinder and Dawn Miller

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.

Volunteer readers and school coordinators gathered for Read Aloud West Virginia’s annual conference in July to organize, learn about research, build programs and share enthusiasm.

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.

Continue reading “Impact: Volunteers, educators gather to help WV children succeed”

Library Commission show to feature Read Aloud during week of Oct. 1, 2018

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.

Read Aloud Boone County goes LIVE!

By Sara Busse

Unbeknownst to him, WOWK weatherman Spencer Adkins inspired a new delivery system for Read Aloud of Boone County. By embracing technology, Chapter President Jennifer Griffith is spreading Read Aloud throughout the county with enthusiasm and passion.

“I was on Facebook and saw Spencer Adkins go live with an update about a storm.” She joined the conversation. “When I did, I saw the interaction between me, him and others… people typing in, asking questions… he would read them and say their names with a reply. I thought, ‘How neat is that?!’ I sent a question to see if the storm would hit Madison. He said, ‘Jennifer, it looks like it will hit in about ten minutes down the Boone line.’ From that day on, I would see journalists and others ‘go live’ and thought, ‘How could I incorporate that into my Read Aloud?’”

Griffith went live on Facebook, reading children’s favorite books. She promoted the Tuesday night Facebook readings to parents and children. Authors joined in live discussions. And it was a hit!

Griffith knew that most homes have a computer, iPad or iPhone, all of which have links to social media.

“My goal was to get parents involved as well as the kids. Having it at night, I hoped to draw a larger crowd, that parents and grandparents would sit with their child, watch and engage, just as I did with Spencer!”

The story time ran through June and July. Parents would comment as the story progressed. Griffith’s expressive delivery guaranteed many responses from parents. They would message her, saying how excited their child was when Griffith called him or her by name.

“I would give a ‘shout out’ to the kids when I saw their posts. ‘Hey Bobby, are you ready for Storytime? We have a great book to read tonight.’

Griffith said one great thing about Facebook Live is that it stays on the Facebook page and those who missed it can view at a later time.

Griffith, a former teacher in the Boone County school system and current piano teacher who now works with WVU Physicians, has been encouraging reading in her community for many years. She created a program called “Skyhawk Read Aloud” that involved high school football players reading to elementary students. Book drives at football games, Read to My Pet Day and other initiatives have helped promote reading in the county, as well.

Visit Read Aloud WV-Boone County on Facebook to see Griffith’s videos and to stay updated on the exciting events in the county.

BUZZ: New Read Aloud video a call to action

By Sara Busse

Although one goal of Read Aloud is to limit screen time, a new video produced by West Virginia State University’s Extension Service is creating a buzz about reading aloud across West Virginia.

Lynn Kessler, director of communications and development for RAWV, said the group needed a tool to spread its message. A conversation with West Virginia State University extension agent and Summers County Read Aloud coordinator Stacy Ford at the Read Aloud summer conference led to a collaboration between RAWV and WVSU.

“Matt Browning and Megan Sheets in West Virginia State University’s communications and media departments took it and ran. They were such an incredible help to us in creating a tool that we could not have created without them,” Kessler explained.

Browning and Sheets, both graduates of WVSU and self-proclaimed “total book nerds,” described the video as a call to action to recruit volunteer readers.

Browning and Sheets filmed readers in Summers and Kanawha county, as well as “b-roll” footage featuring extension agents in the library and reading to children. The video was an in-kind donation to Read Aloud, and Sheets said it’s the first time they were able to branch out and do work for another entity besides the University.

The video also features an interview with Read Aloud Executive Director Mary Kay Bond.

“She came to our studio on campus, and she’s like a brochure for Read Aloud in person,” Sheets said, laughing. “She was great.”

Browning said the readers and children were very comfortable in front of the camera because they were engrossed in the reading.

“There was one gentleman, he was an absolute hoot!” he said. “The reader had so much fun with those kids, and they were having so much fun, it made it easy.”

What happens when you read to children?

What happens when you read to children?

It hardly seems possible that something so low-tech, so enjoyable, could actually boost children’s grades, test scores and lifetime achievement. But it does. When you simply enjoy books with the children in your life, a lot of things happen:

1. Children learn new words and ideas.
Without even realizing it, children of any age absorb great new words and more understanding of the world around them. Then, when they read on their own, whether for school or for fun, children recognize words they encounter, and the text has meaning. That’s why it is important to start reading to children from birth.

TIP: Prolong conversations with children, even small ones. Engage them in describing what they see or what they have done in a day. Books are great for this.

LINK: Make yours a read aloud home — 10 things parents should know.

2. Children increase their own reading comprehension.
Reading is more than sounding out words and pronouncing them quickly, like items on a shopping list. The words in each sentence relate to all the others to produce meaning and sensation. Some children – even those who can look at tough new words and pronounce them correctly – do not readily draw meaning from the text. You see this when children know all the words in a story, and they’re paying attention, but they don’t get the joke, or they don’t sense when the end of a story is near. Children who regularly listen to stories they enjoy tend to develop good reading comprehension.

TIP: Pause to discuss when your child wants to talk about the action in a story. Encourage children to predict what will happen next, but don’t quiz. This reading time is just for fun.

LINK: More about reading comprehension from Reading Rockets.

3. You share your passion with children.
We talk about reading stories, and that often means fiction – novels, chapter books, many picture books. But any kind of reading that you can enjoy with a child will work. If you love basketball or history or travel, non-fiction (true) books may be your best friend. Magazine or newspasper articles and biographies that you enjoyed are all good choices to share. Read what interests you and the child. Children’s author Jon Scieszka (rhymes with fresca) has observed that boys in particular respond to funny books, disgusting imagery and stories about real people.

TIP: If you have trouble getting a child interested in books, go to the library and ask for books about anything that interests you both — bugs, Star Wars, horses, basketball, Egyptian mummies. Browsing the pictures and reading what interests you counts.

LINK: Jon Scieszka’s Guys Read website is full of recommendations for all ages.

4. Children become readers themselves.
Parents find that if they make time for just 20 minutes of read aloud most days of the week, children grow to like it so much they ask for more. Then they ask to read the book on their own, or they want to look for other books. Children who read for fun do better in school and have higher test scores than children who do not read for pleasure. They also write better, have better vocabularies, know grammar, spell better, read faster, know more about literature, know more about science and social studies, have more cultural literacy, have more practical knowledge, get better grades in writing classes and have less anxiety about writing. Students who read regularly also do better on the Test of English as a Foreign Language.

TIP: Make a regular trip to your public library to check out and return books. Whether once a week or once a month, the habit will pay off.

LINKS: The National Assessment for Educational Progress (this one is from 2011) surveyed students and found higher test scores were associated with children who reported reading for pleasure more frequently.

“The Power of Reading” by Stephen D. Krashen documents other benefits of reading aloud with children.

5. You share your values with children.
While sharing stories, even funny or silly stories, sometimes children raise questions. These questions can lead to discussions of right and wrong, sportsmanship, courtesy, friendship, discrimination or other weighty subjects. Children – even older children – naturally look to parents and then to other adults around them for their opinions and judgment. It may not be obvious in the moment, but reading aloud regularly creates opportunities for parents to stay informed and be influential in a child’s life.

6. You nurture children’s health and well-being into adulthood.
Children who read for fun generally read better on their own and do better in school and on tests than children who do not read for pleasure. Children who thrive in school tend to go further, not only to finish high school, but to college or other post-secondary education and beyond. More education is associated with better employment opportunities and higher earnings throughout life. People of higher income tend to enjoy healthier lives. People who read well are better able to look after their health needs.

7. You give yourself a welcome interlude in the day.
Reading has been shown to cause relaxation and may help you fall asleep. Older people who continue to read show less memory loss and suffer fewer effects of dementia. When adults make time to read to children for the children’s benefit, adults often discover that they themselves feel richer and stimulated by the experience, and they miss it when their reading time is interrupted.