Berkeley County volunteer lights up kindergarten, second-grade classrooms

Betty Cuthbert looked up and realized she had been reading to Berkeley County school children for 25 years, with no plans to slow down.

By Bob Fleenor

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.

Continue reading “Berkeley County volunteer lights up kindergarten, second-grade classrooms”

BAM! stores in WV to donate 10 percent of sales to Read Aloud on Oct. 27

At all Books-a-Million stores in West Virginia on Oct. 27, tell the cashier you want to support Read Aloud West Virginia, and the store will donate 10 percent of the purchase amount to help Read Aloud put books on the minds and in the hands of West Virginia children.

Stores in Barboursville, Beckley, Bluefield, Bridgeport, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Charleston, Vienna and Wheeling are participating in Books-a-Million’s Bookfair Program with Read Aloud for the third time. In Charleston, both stores at Dudley Farms Plaza on Corridor G and in the Charleston Town Center mall are participating.

Read Aloud volunteers will be in stores on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018 to answer questions, share information and sign up volunteers.

Continue reading “BAM! stores in WV to donate 10 percent of sales to Read Aloud on Oct. 27”

Berkeley County students in Leadership Academy recognized

By Bob Fleenor

Thanks to the efforts of three talented high school seniors, Read Aloud West Virginia (RAWV) was presented a $1,000 check on April 10, 2018 by the Eastern West  Virginia Community Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council Fund.

The students—Jaelin Cochran and Maria Sobinovsky of Hedgesville High, and Noah Slack from Martinsburg High—were selected the overall winners from among  seven teams of students who took part in the Berkeley County Schools Leadership Academy.

Jaelin, Maria, and Noah selected Read Aloud West Virginia for their leadership project. Over the course of the school year, they devoted long hours to researching RAWV and in April presented a “pitch” on the organization’s behalf to a panel of judges. The Berkeley County Chapter Board members were told that five of the six judges selected their presentation as the very best.

Thanks to the generosity of United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, the other five nonprofits (Berkeley County Humane Society, Berkeley Senior Citizens, Boys & Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle, Habitat for Humanity, and Horses with Hearts) on whose behalf student teams competed each received $300 grants. Additionally, all 20 students who took part in the competition were awarded $350 scholarships!

Berkeley Chapter Board Member, Bob Fleenor, says: “This unexpected windfall is a testament not only to the students’ hard work, but to the efforts of each of you (staff and board members) and all our volunteers who touch the lives of thousands of local students and make Read Aloud a program worthy of inspiring our next generation of leaders.”

Bob Fleenor is a retired journalist and currently a Read Aloud Berkeley County Chapter Board member.

(From L-R) Lisa Welch, one of the judges, Maria Sobinovsky, Hedgesville High Senior, Jaelin Cochran, Hedgesville High Senior, Bob Fleener and Joyce Ashworth with Read Aloud Berkeley County, and Berkeley County School Director of Communications Elaine Bobo. (Photo by Elias McMillan. Photo credit to WEPM Radio.)


The extra mile: a grab bag of ideas for classroom enrichment

Flashlight Fridays

Lauren Jarroll, a Nicholas County Chapter Board member, discovered a way to shine a light on reading as she was substitute teaching in Nicholas County. She found that each Friday, students in Jessica Martin and Stacy McClung’s classrooms participated in “Flashlight Fridays.” During these Friday afternoons, students were invited to retrieve a flashlight from a special drawer, only to be opened for this activity, and were able to choose a spot in the classroom to sit and read. The teacher would turn out the classroom lights and for fifteen minutes, students read a book of their choosing.

This activity incorporates reading with a fun twist! Allowing students to find a comfortable spot with their own flashlight and chosen book makes the encounter more personal and enlightens students’ reading experiences.


Literary Luncheons

A suggestion from Laura Huffman, Valley View Elementary School in Berkeley County:

“To strengthen the love of reading, I offer my students the opportunity to enjoy a ‘Literary Luncheon’ once a month in my classroom. This is when we spend time together eating lunch and discussing a pre-selected book. At the beginning of each month, I give a short book talk and encourage students to borrow classroom copies of the book to read on their own or with family members at home.

“This project teaches not only reading, but responsibilities as well. Each student who chooses to participate has four responsibilities for Literary Luncheons: read the book, take care of the book, return the book on the day of the luncheon and participate in the discussion. On the last Friday of each month, students are responsible for returning the book in the same condition in which it was borrowed and being ready to discuss what they have read.

“Literary Luncheons provide students the opportunity to develop friendships, refine their speaking and listening skills, and discover the wonderful world of reading.”

Lunchtime reading a big hit

By Lesley McCullough McCallister

As first year Read Aloud West Virginia volunteer Patrick Ashton, Assistant Principal at Mountain Ridge Intermediate School in Gerrardstown, Berkeley County, was attending his Read Aloud training, he was so excited thinking about reading to one classroom that he began to contemplate how to reach his entire school. Then it hit him, the best time to reach as many students as possible at once—lunchtime!

Typically, on “Theater Thursdays” students were allowed to watch a movie during their lunch period. Building on that idea, Mr. Ashton believed Read Aloud sessions would be a fun instructional activity that also could be tied to the curriculum. During the fall semester, Mr. Ashton began weekly Read Aloud sessions for approximately 200 students during each of three lunch periods for the third, fourth and fifth graders.

The students’ positive feedback was immediate. “I had kids asking me multiple times every day if I could read every day,” said Mr. Ashton. “Even the boys were requesting!”

This semester he read Wonder to the fourth and fifth graders and noted when it got close to Christmas he read Christmas stories and poems and put Wonder on hold.

Just before the holiday break, Mr. Ashton was promoted and will not return as Assistant Principal in the new year. Thankfully, Principal Autumne Frye has agreed to continue the lunchtime Read Aloud sessions for the students.

When asked why reading to students is so important, Mr. Ashton explained, “Enjoyment, imagination, relevance, comprehension, fluency, decoding, phonemic awareness, etc. I could go on and on. Kids need to  see that adults are excited about reading. I especially wanted to do this Read Aloud with our students to promote the idea that men do like to read and it’s not just for girls/women. And although I’m far from ‘cool,’ I am very active in their lives and I wanted the kids to see that reading is not just a forced act inside the classroom. Reading is exciting and enjoyable.”

While he won’t be at Mountain Ridge full time in the future, Mr. Ashton hopes his new position will allow him the flexibility to come back and continue reading to the students on occasion. He also hopes the idea of lunchtime Read Aloud sessions spreads to other schools throughout the state.

Lesley McCullough McCallister is a Read Aloud supporter, volunteer reader, newsletter contributor and a freelance  journalist.