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”

10 to TRY: Successful books suggested by our volunteers in 2018

“Bring a book to recommend,” participants in Read Aloud’s annual conference were instructed. Then at a good pausing point (or technical glitch, because books don’t glitch, right?) a volunteer would offer a quick show-and-tell. This issue’s book reviews include some of those favorites from around the state:

1. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. You may know the author better as Ryan from the TV show “The Office.” Don’t be daunted by the hilarious video online of Novak reading it to a school in New York. But be warned. Here’s a sample: “Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say.

“No matter what.”

Young listeners wisely get the foreshadowing here and anticipate with giggles.

2. The Big Jump and Other Stories by Benjamin Elkin. This one, originally published in 1958, was recommended by Berkeley County volunteer Casey Wilson because it is one of his wife’s favorites. He read the first of the three stories in the book to a first-grade class, and then closed the book.

A student raised his hand and said, “There are more pages in that book.”

Caught holding out on them, Wilson re-opened the book and read all three stories to the class in that one sitting.

“It’s as different from what’s coming out that’s new and contemporary as it can be, but the kids love it. Don’t be hesitant to pull out the old-timers,” he said.

3. Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Speaking of old-timers, this folktale was first published as the beloved picture book by an avant-garde artist in 1940. It has sold millions and makes a great board book because of the repetitive language suited to small children. If you read it, though, make sure you know what monkey noise you’re going to make when the time comes.


4. What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada and illustrated by Mae Besom. A national bestseller this all-ages story and light, inviting drawings explore something anyone can recognize — what do you do with that idea? Sequels include What Do You Do with a Problem? and What Do You Do with a Chance?


5. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk. This beautiful new picture book traces West Virginia’s recently discovered hero Katherine Johnson, of Greenbrier County, educated at West Virginia State University and WVU, who then worked quietly behind the scenes at NASA doing the math that made space travel possible. It’s aimed at younger students, but it has something to inform and inspire all ages.

6. Henry Builds a Cabin by D.B. Johnson. This is the first in a short series of picture books drawing on specific stories and imagery of Henry David Thoreau. This Henry is a bear who sets about building a cabin in the woods. The sentences are simple enough for little ones to follow, but the book is even better in fourth and fifth grades, where students kick off discussion with  “Why is he doing that?” Or someone insists that no one can build a house for 28 dollars, 12 and a half cents, and we discover the word inflation.

7. Cendrillon by Robert D. San Souci and illustrated by Brian Pinkney. This is another picture book that grows with the students. It’s the Cinderella story, so easily recognizable, but set in the French West Indies, with all the color, imagery and a peppering of French Creole language. Also, it is told from the point of view of the Fairy Godmother, or nannin’.


8. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. A chapter book, this features second-grader Alvin Ho, aka his superhero alter-ego Firecracker Man, who does everything you would expect, except that as soon as he steps off the bus at school he can’t talk. The characters inspire laughs and compassion in listeners. It’s not too young for third grade, where students begged for the next one in the series.


9. Monsters in West Virginia by Rosemary Ellen Guiley. There is something even more suspenseful about allegations of monsters and fantastic beasts just out of sight, if the places they were supposedly spotted are places you know — Grafton, Point Pleasant, Braxton County, for example. A good lure for older listeners.


10. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. “I love the connections we can make between how the author explored different kinds of love, friendship, family love, betrayal, all of these rich ideas and plot twists and things that we can look at together when we read those books,” said Christy Schwartz, literacy specialist with the West Virginia Department of Education’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

“There’s a really powerful moment at the end. Every time my students saw me tear up at the end, they thought, ‘Wow.’ They fell in love with the characters, with the author, and they tended to read more books by that author.” This is another one for upper elementary students.

Looking for your next Read Aloud hit? Need to freshen your repertoire?

Scroll through and click around our helpful booklists.


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

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


Kanawha County Volunteer Reader Orientation Postponed

Due to inclement weather, the Read Aloud West Virginia volunteer orientation scheduled for this evening (January 16) at 5:30 pm has been postponed.

This session will be rescheduled for Tuesday, January 30 at 5:30 pm in the Columbia Pipeline Group Building.

We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you in two weeks!