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.
As we near the end of the year, Read Aloud West Virginia is grateful to the many donors, friends and volunteers who support our efforts that motivate children to want to read. We cannot do it without you.
Our Annual Fund drive continues. We are trying to reach goals for next year’s work. If you have not given and are considering, please know:
1. Read Aloud has Neighborhood Investment Program tax credits available. Those credits can be used any time over the next five years, starting with the donation year. They lower a West Virginia personal income tax bill or a corporate net income tax bill by as much as half the gift amount starting with donations of at least $500. Donors may receive no more than $100,000 a year in NIP credits, and credits cannot be used to reduced a tax bill by more than half. That means a $10,000 donation would cut a tax bill by $5,000. A $500 donation would reduce a tax bill by $250.
2. What we are doing is working. First, Read Aloud focuses on motivating children to want to read, not fussing at them to read.
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.”