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.
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.
“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.”
Two programs of the Jackson County Read Aloud chapter received a financial boost thanks to a $2,500 grant from the Jackson County Community Foundation. Snuggle and Read and Snak Pak will each benefit from the grant.
Snuggle and Read encourages families to read together, providing books and blankets so participants can experience the pleasure that a warm blanket and a great read can bring when shared with a child. Several of these well-received events have been held at elementary schools and county libraries in Jackson County and throughout the state. The grant money will be used to purchase books for Snuggle and Read. Blankets are provided by Constellium Corporation.
The Snak Pak program, according to Jackson County Read Aloud co-chair Lisa Bailey, is run by Parchment Valley Baptist Church, providing weekly snack packs to approximately 190 children who may need a little extra food during the weekends. Read Aloud is now adding the excitement of books.
“Mid-year last year, Read Aloud Jackson County started providing books with the snack packs on a once-a-month basis to the children so that they would also have their very own books to read,” Bailey said. “While we may have shelves of books at our own home, some homes have very few books or no books at all. We have been receiving positive feedback from the schools about how excited the kids are to pick out their monthly book. They can hardly wait!”
Read Aloud West Virginia helped complete the grant application and is purchasing the books for the programs.
Lea Ann Tuohy, of the book and movie The Blind Side fame, spoke on “Making a Difference in the Life of a Child” at the Jackson County Community Foundation dinner in October when the awards were granted, according to Jackson co-chair Janet McCauley.
“The inspiring story of Michael Orr, a homeless child who was taken in and nurtured by the Tuohys and who became an NFL standout, emphasized the importance of stepping out of your comfort zone to help others,” McCauley explained. Tuohy said she appreciated the connection with the work done by Read Aloud Jackson County.
McCauley said, “By providing both the Snuggle and Read project and the Snak Pak program with books, Jackson County Read Aloud is hoping to make a difference in the lives of many children. We were very pleased to be a recipient and that the monies have helped to meet our desire to get books in the hands of children.”
ELKINS – Summertime offers the opportunity to enjoy many activities including sunning by the pool, quiet evenings on the porch or deck and travels to many fun places. And what better way to pass the time than reading a book? With that in mind, Read Aloud Randolph County has announced plans for another book/movie event for the summer.
The group is encouraging the community to read “Rocket Boys” by Homer Hickam Jr., Read Aloud Randolph County President Mary Boyd said. Read Aloud wanted to get the word out about the upcoming event to give people the opportunity to get a copy of the book and read it before the showing of the movie, she said.
“We are sponsoring a community showing of the movie ‘October Sky’ at sundown Sept. 2 as part of the Elkins Main Street First Friday events,” Boyd said. “Elkins Main Street will get the licensing to show the movie, and Davis & Elkins College is loaning the projector and screen for the movie. The showing will be outside in downtown Elkins.”
Boyd said copies of the book “Rocket Boys” are available for loan at the Elkins Sewing Center. An online scan of the Randolph County Libraries shows there are copies of “Rocket Boys” available at the Helvetia Public Library, the Valley Head Public Library, the Russell Memorial Public Library in Mill Creek, the Pioneer Memorial Public Library in Harman and the Elkins Randolph County Public Library.
“The book is a wonderful story about growing up in a small coal mining town, and is about how a teacher can inspire her students,” she said. “It shows how science discoveries are made and how to face failure, overcome adversity and become a success.”
Hickam is from Coalwood and is an author, Vietnam veteran and former NASA engineer. While at NASA, he worked on spacecraft design and astronaut training. His book was a New York Times bestseller and has been studied in many schools.
Josh Revels, a science instructor at Elkins High School, is the adviser for the rocket club. He said he had about 10 members of his club that participated in the Teen America Rocketry Club challenge.
“We had the 10 members who built this rocket at NASA with the supplies the West Virginia Rocketry Association chipped in with,” Revels said. “The students also designed this engine mount with a 3-D printer there, so the students were learning about engineering like in the book. They also discovered the first time isn’t always what they expect it takes more than one try.”
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Revel and his EHS Rocket Club will be assisting during the Sept. 2 showing of “October Sky.”
Last year, Read Aloud Randolph County gathered folks to read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” written by Harper Lee. They sponsored a discussion about the book, sponsored a public showing of the movie and coordinated an essay writing contest for teens.