‘Tell me all the books’

I am typically a newsletter editor’s nightmare — waiting until the last minute to turn in my article. There is a reason for that. Invariably, close to deadline something will happen which crystalizes for me what I want to say. So it is with this issue.

Jennie Fitzkee, blogger extraordinaire and a frequent contributor to this newsletter (see her wonderful article about visiting E.B. White’s farm in this issue) recently sent two posts which dealt with book selection and the “best words from a child.”

The former touched on the most frequently asked question we receive from our volunteers, “What book is best?” To ask me (or any reader!) that question is almost like asking a parent to pick a favorite child — can’t be done! Nevertheless, we know it is an important question that needs to be addressed and this issue is chock full of suggestions from our conference attendees. (In Jennie’s own classroom the early favorite this year is Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny.)  You can also find links to the growing list of favorite titles submitted by Read Aloud volunteers over the years at readaloudwestvirginia.org/book-lists-and-reviews/.

The other post referenced a kindergarten student who, after observing the impressive display of books in Jennie’s room, said, “Jennie, tell me all the books.”

That made me think of our volunteers beginning another school year of “telling” (aka reading) so many books to children and introducing them to new words, new worlds and new authors. Those thoughts led in turn to an article I read this week about one of my very special heroes, Fred Rogers. As you probably know this is the 50th anniversary of “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” and he has been the subject of many articles and honors, as well as a commemorative stamp and several documentaries.

That documentary seemed to make everyone leaving the theatre walk a little straighter and smile a little brighter. One of the most touching moments was when those remembering Mr. Rogers were asked to do something he had asked numerous audiences from Congressional committees to college graduates to do. He called it an “invisible gift” as he asked them to take one silent moment to “think about those who have helped you become who you are today.”

It made me think of those who are serving as that person for a child or children in our state now, guiding the next generation. When you read to a child as a volunteer, parent, grandparent, guardian or friend you are adding to who that child will become.

Those of you who support our organization and enable us to offer our programs are also fulfilling that role. You will read about some who are doing that (conferees; Dan Foster). Others may remain anonymous, but it does not diminish the incredibly important role they play. As we start the new school year, know that when you introduce a child to the pleasure of reading you are providing an incredibly important gift.

Also know we are always looking for additional volunteers to join us in our efforts.

— Mary Kay Bond, Executive Director, Read Aloud West Virginia

Returning readers: what to expect as the school year begins

We’re happy to report that as early as July we began hearing from volunteers who are eager to get back to their classrooms and schools. Here’s what the state Read Aloud office, school principals and school coordinators are doing behind the scenes to make sure that happens as soon as possible!

Enrollment packets for the new school year were sent to principals in early August with a request that schools enroll in the program no later than September 1st. Each principal is asked to designate a Read Aloud school coordinator for their school when they submit the enrollment form to Read Aloud.

Once Read Aloud receives the enrollment form, we compile a packet of information and forms for the school coordinator. This packet contains the results of the reader surveys we received from you over the summer and is used by the coordinator to contact readers who want to return to their school for the new year. This is why reader surveys are an important part of the Read Aloud process! (It is also why we are grateful for the high response rate!)

Schools in the counties served by Read Aloud had varying start dates this year from August 10 to August 24, 2017. The goal is to have all returning readers back in their classrooms no later than October 1st. If you don’t hear from your school coordinator, or if you have questions, please contact your school or the state Read Aloud office at  (304) 345-5212.


Back-to-school flood relief drive exceeds expectations

By Nikki Moses

How can we help?

That was the burning question asked by compassionate people in West Virginia and beyond after devastating flooding hit the Mountain State in June.

Two people called state Board of Education member Beverly Kingery. She was on vacation, but she said, “Give me a day or two…”

Matt Browning, communications director at West Virginia State University, contacted Read Aloud: “Can we work together to help?”

Many more followed. As momentum built, it became clear that a coordinated effort was needed. Bev Kingery, along with husband Phil, took the lead in the project that has put 9,875 backpacks filled with school supplies in the hands of West Virginia students in time for the new school year!

Donations worth more than $200,000 began flowing in. Businesses, religious organizations, civic and professional groups, educators and individuals and the media dove in.

What could have been logistical chaos (10,000 packs of paper, 30,000 spiral notebooks, pencils galore…) was a smooth operation under Kingery’s guidance. The former school teacher, principal and superintendent procured warehouse space at an 84 Lumber facility Logan. With the help of many community leaders and volunteers the sorting and packing and transporting began. Logan County’s Commission, Board of Education and Sheriff were key players. Deliveries to students began Aug. 5.

In Kanawha County, Bridget Foster led collection efforts with the help of Read Aloud and WVSU Extension Service. WOWK-TV asked viewers to fill a school bus in their Quarrier Street Parking lot, while Capitol Market, Charleston Town Center Mall, Courtyard Marriott, South Charleston Public Library, Wal-Mart in South Charleston and WVSU all served as drop-off locations to provide ease of access for donors.

Counties across the state saw communities come together to help. “This was a case of many hands making light work,” Mary Kay Bond said. “Everyone worked together.”

Nikki Moses is the former editor of the Read Aloud newsletter and a board member. She is an active volunteer in the Charleston community.