Our Annual Fund update: Why we ask

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.

Continue reading “Our Annual Fund update: Why we ask”

Raising readers: impact, nostalgia intertwine in new campaign

By Sara Busse

The year was 1986. A small cadre of volunteers, arms filled with children’s books, made their way into grade schools in Charleston, ready to share their passion for reading. Little did they know the impact they would have on generations of young students.

The year is 2016. Read Aloud is in 29 counties, with hopes of spreading statewide. And those original little listeners are all grown up and reading to their children today.

Generation Read Aloud.

That theme kicks off the 2016-2017 Annual Fund campaign and will run throughout the year as the organization expands, reflects, encourages and, yes, reads.

“In this digital age, it is encouraging to hear that something as simple as a story, read aloud by an enthusiastic adult, can make a lasting impression on a child,” explained Lynn Kessler, communications and development director for Read Aloud. “We often hear stories from today’s readers about how they were influenced by Read Aloud volunteers when they were in school.”

Efforts are underway to find “grown-ups” who have fond memories of Read Aloud in their childhood classrooms. These memories will be shared throughout the winter and at Read-A-Palooza, the organization’s annual spring fundraising event. Here are a few of the stories we’ve collected from those early years in Kanawha County; we’re looking forward to hearing many more memories from across the state!

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Emilie Doty Love, mortgage lender, United Bank, remembers hearing Moby Dick as a child in a classroom at Holz Elementary.

I loved being read to, and it was even when I was in third grade!” Emilie said. She’s passed along her love of reading to her four sons and is now a regular reader at Overbrook Elementary in Charleston.

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Haley Santmyer, a teacher at Sacred Heart Grade School, remembers parents coming to read when she was a student at the school. She now shares many of those books with her second grade students.

“Having been read to as a child, I can honestly say that it helped me to become the adult reader that I am today,” Haley explained. “My love for reading developed at an early age from being surrounded by a multitude of books. Parent volunteers would come in once a week for Read Aloud at our school. I always looked forward to the Read Aloud days and loved the many different books and authors that we read. As a teacher, many of the books in my classroom library are books that were read to me in my elementary years. I hope these books will have the same effect on my students that they had on me at their age.

“When I think back to my first Read Aloud experiences the first story that pops into my head is Bony Legs by Joanna Cole. The aide in our kindergarten class would turn off the lights and read the whole book with a witch’s voice, then at the end she would scare us. We would laugh and scream and beg her to read it again,” Haley remembers. Other books she enjoyed as a child include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Holes by Louis Sachar.

As a teacher, Haley sees the value of Read Aloud.

“Read Aloud encourages students to read more and can often be that child’s only exposure to literature. Without Read Aloud volunteers, many children would never be exposed to books that not only teach a valuable lesson but also expose children to [new] words and expressions,” she explained.

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Claire Barth, sales associate for West Virginia Commercial in Charleston, fondly recalls Read Aloud at Kenna Elementary. “I always looked forward to Read Aloud in elementary school,” Claire said enthusiastically. “It was a weekly highlight. My favorite was when my mom would come in to volunteer. She always read Junie B. Jones books. I still remember the first line of every book. She always made it fun, which to me is the most important part. Read Aloud makes reading fun.”

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If you grew up with a Read Aloud volunteer in your elementary school classroom, we want to hear your story! Did it influence you to become a reader? Do you recall which books made an impact or which ones were just fun to hear? Send your memories to Lynn Kessler, lkessler@readaloudwestvirginia.org.

Sara Busse is a long-time Charleston resident and community volunteer. Her work at Trinity’s Table earned her recognition as a 2016 YWCA Woman of Achievement.