WVDE brings good news to Read Aloud’s annual conference

Another successful Read Aloud Conference is in the books! Chapter representatives gathered July 24 and 25 at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, West Virginia to network, share ideas and plan for the year ahead.

Read Aloud West Virginia welcomed not only chapter representatives, but also State Associate Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch, along with Charlotte Webb, Coordinator of the Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning. Burch, who was the featured keynote speaker for the conference, affirmed an ongoing, natural partnership between Read Aloud West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE).

Reiterating Read Aloud’s core values, Burch noted the important work the organization is doing in the classroom and in support of parents and families. Burch believes we can only “move the needle” on educational improvement if we change our culture to place a high value on education and engage families as well as educators to expect the best from our children. He cited the success of a Read Aloud summer reading project at Crichton Elementary as an example of engaging families and encouraging reading outside the classroom. At Crichton, students were able to choose six books to add to their home libraries and read during the summer. This project served to prevent the phenomenon known as “summer-slide.”

As he brought his remarks to a close, Burch surprised his audience with the announcement that the WVDE had chosen to award two grants to Read Aloud West Virginia, totaling $75,000. These grants are the first Read Aloud has received from the WVDE and are a significant tribute to the work of our volunteers around the state.

Following a motivating opening, the conference attendees were briefed on the Read Aloud “Year in Review” and chapters were given the opportunity to share their success stories as well as challenges they faced in the previous year. An entirely new Resource Kit was distributed to each representative in attendance and new marketing materials such as brochures and banners were on display for chapters’ use.  Staff members of the state Read Aloud office also shared reports from their departments.

Following the sessions, representatives networked with other attendees to develop connections and share resources from their respective locations. Attendees consisted of both veterans and newcomers to the conference, but the passion they share for Read Aloud West Virginia united them and yielded a productive retreat for all.

What’s the point of a Read Aloud conference?

By Melody Simpson

The fourth annual Read Aloud Conference will be held July 24-25 at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, West Virginia. As in prior years, Read Aloud West Virginia will pay for two representatives from each county chapter to attend the conference, but more may attend at personal or county expense. Information on this year’s conference has been sent to county chapter leadership, along with a pre-conference survey for registering attendees and seeking input for the content of the conference.

This event offers the only chance each year for representatives from all participating county chapters to gather together and share successes, failures, ideas, plans, and challenges, and to prepare for the year ahead. With 30 West Virginia counties participating in Read Aloud, it is likely that there are 30 different projects, approaches, or ideas being used. West Virginians have always been creative, and this is as true when promoting a love of reading as it is anywhere else. Many participants in past years have reported leaving the conference energized and freshly motivated, with new ideas and partners (both within and outside their county) identified.

In addition to the networking and collaborative opportunities, Read Aloud West Virginia uses the conference to distribute support materials, such as updates to the Read Aloud Resource Kit and new posters or pamphlets, and to introduce other materials being developed for “testing” during the upcoming year. Finally, the conference provides an opportunity for Read Aloud West Virginia to acquaint county chapters with other organizations or programs working to improve reading readiness and literacy, where opportunities for additional collaboration or partnerships at the local level may exist.

The conference will begin at noon on Monday and end around 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday. So, county leadership, be sure to identify and register the two (or more!) representatives from your chapter who will attend this year!

Melody Simpson is an attorney at Bowles Rice LLP, a volunteer reader and a member of the Read Aloud West Virginia board and newsletter committee.