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 .

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”

This summer, E.B. White’s niece invited me out to the farm

E.B. White, who wrote for The New Yorker before he established himself in the childhood memories of millions with his now-classic children’s books, wrote on this typewriter, carefully kept at the family farm.
(Photo courtesy of Jennie Fitzkee)

By Jennie Fitzkee

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.”

Yes, I know. I read Some Writer by Melissa Swift. If you want to know everything about E.B. White, it is the book.

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.

Congratulations and thanks, to Dr. Dan Foster and the YMCA

Dr. Dan Foster of Charleston is winner of the 2018 Spirit of the Valley Award, given by the YMCA of Kanawha Valley.

Dr. Dan Foster of Charleston was recognized by the YMCA with the 2018 Spirit of the Valley Award for his four decades of work in health care and public service in the Kanawha Valley.

The award comes with a donation, made in the recipient’s name, to a non-profit organization chosen by the recipient. Dr. Foster chose Read Aloud West Virginia.

In his remarks at the award luncheon, Dr. Foster talked about his mother and how she shared her love of reading with him. He pointed out that both the YMCA and Read Aloud have an impact on the lives of children.

Read Aloud West Virginia seeks to improve West Virginia’s literacy rates and educational attainment by motivating children to WANT to read. Read Aloud’s research based programs — Volunteer Readers, Book Distribution, Public Education and Classroom Enrichment — put books in the hands and on the minds of West Virginia’s children.

The 501(c)(3) organization also raises community awareness regarding the importance of reading to children from infancy into adolescence and the value of providing children with a print-rich environment. During the past school year, Read Aloud distributed more than 8,300 books and placed 1,113 volunteers in over 1,652 classrooms across 30 counties in West Virginia.

These volunteers serve as live commercials for reading. The readers are also important role models who allow children to experience the joy of reading and, in so doing, motivate them to become proficient readers. Once equipped with this essential skill, students experience more success in all subject areas and are better prepared for a promising future. Students who develop good reading skills tend to go further in school, to have higher lifetime earnings and even to enjoy better health.

Read Aloud thanks the YMCA for recognizing Dr. Dan Foster’s service and commitment to the Kanawha Valley. The organization is tremendously grateful to be allowed to share in Dr. Foster’s honor as his non-profit designee. Recognition from those so dedicated and accomplished as Dr. Foster and the YMCA strengthens our own commitment to serving our mission in the Kanawha Valley.

Among the many congratulatory messages compiled for the booklet printed for the August award ceremony was this one from the John L. and Maude H. Dickinson Family:

“Thank you for making West Virginia your home and for making our community a better place to live.”


Read Aloud can offer WV NIP tax credits! Get ‘em while they last

Read Aloud West Virginia can once again offer West Virginia Neighborhood Investment Program (NIP) tax credits to qualifying donors. The benefit reduces a donor’s state personal income tax bill or corporate net income tax bill by as much as half of the gift amount.

Donations of at least $500 qualify for the NIP credit and help us pursue our mission to motivate children across the state to want to read. With your help, we are changing the literacy climate in West Virginia.

Donations made by Dec. 31, 2018 can qualify for credits to apply to taxes due in 2019, but credits are limited and offered for as long as they are available.

The tax credit may be applied in one year, or during the next five years. Individuals are limited to receiving no more than $100,000 in NIP credits in a single year.

Proposed changes in federal tax policy could reduce the effect of the state credit on federal taxes related to donations made after Aug. 27, 2018, but state rules are unchanged.

Donors may give online, or make checks payable to Read Aloud West Virginia and send them to Read Aloud West Virginia, P.O. Box 1784, Charleston WV 25326.

For more information about NIP tax credits or anything else, please call Read Aloud at (304) 345-5212, or email Executive Director Mary Kay Bond at Thank you.

Berkeley County students in Leadership Academy recognized

By Bob Fleenor

Thanks to the efforts of three talented high school seniors, Read Aloud West Virginia (RAWV) was presented a $1,000 check on April 10, 2018 by the Eastern West  Virginia Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council Fund.

The students—Jaelin Cochran and Maria Sobinovsky of Hedgesville High, and Noah Slack from Martinsburg High—were selected the overall winners from among  seven teams of students who took part in the Berkeley County Schools Leadership Academy.

Jaelin, Maria, and Noah selected Read Aloud West Virginia for their leadership project. Over the course of the school year, they devoted long hours to researching RAWV and in April presented a “pitch” on the organization’s behalf to a panel of judges. The Berkeley County Chapter Board members were told that five of the six judges selected their presentation as the very best.

Thanks to the generosity of United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, the other five nonprofits (Berkeley County Humane Society, Berkeley Senior Citizens, Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle, Habitat for Humanity, and Horses with Hearts) on whose behalf student teams competed each received $300 grants. Additionally, all 20 students who took part in the competition were awarded $350 scholarships!

Berkeley Chapter Board Member, Bob Fleenor, says: “This unexpected windfall is a testament not only to the students’ hard work, but to the efforts of each of you (staff and board members) and all our volunteers who touch the lives of thousands of local students and make Read Aloud a program worthy of inspiring our next generation of leaders.”

Bob Fleenor is a retired journalist and currently a Read Aloud Berkeley County Chapter Board member.

(From L-R) Lisa Welch, one of the judges, Maria Sobinovsky, Hedgesville High Senior, Jaelin Cochran, Hedgesville High Senior, Bob Fleener and Joyce Ashworth with Read Aloud Berkeley County, and Berkeley County School Director of Communications Elaine Bobo. (Photo by Elias McMillan. Photo credit to WEPM Radio.)