BB&T West Virginia Foundation helps put books in children’s hands

The BB&T West Virginia Foundation has awarded Read Aloud a $2,500 grant to support book distribution programs throughout the state. BB&T has provided similar financial support for several years, and the organization is grateful for the role they continue to play in helping Read Aloud maintain and expand its book distribution programs.

Sixty-one percent of low-income families do not have children’s books in the home, according to the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Research has found that access to books is a critical factor in educational achievement. It is such a key element that researcher and California State University professor Jeff McQuillan concluded that “the only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home.”

Read Aloud West Virginia offers comprehensive, research-based programming designed to engage families, provide consistent “commercials” for reading in the classroom and increase student access to print. Distribution of books and other high-interest reading materials through events that engage children and families is integral to our efforts. Projects vary from county to county based on availability of funds and resources. Programs offered include:

Reading Round Up

Working in conjunction with public schools, volunteers distribute books, magazines and educational materials to students and parents participating in spring Kindergarten and Pre-kindergarten Round-ups (enrollment fairs attended by a majority of students entering kindergarten). Children choose their books from a selection of titles chosen for their age group.

Snuggle and Read

Preschool students and their families are invited to a program where they receive a blanket and books of their choice. A short presentation provides information about the importance of reading aloud to children and a parent’s role in education. Children hear a story read by a Read Aloud volunteer and educational materials are provided to families.

Summer Reading Initiative

This program provides six books to each student at a designated elementary school at the end of the school year. Ideally, the program is offered to students for a minimum of three years to maximize efficacy, as the effects of summer learning loss are cumulative. Children choose the books they receive from a list of titles selected by experts in the field of children’s literacy and an end-of-year event is held to distribute the books.

Distribution by Request

Read Aloud sponsors general distribution of new and used books as funding and availability permit. It is important to distribute books in a way that is meaningful to students and involves families in the process. All schools enrolled in Read Aloud are eligible to request books through this program. Schools often request books for distribution at family fun nights and other school-sponsored events.

BB&T West Virginia Foundation has been an indispensable partner to Read Aloud West Virginia’s Book Distribution Program. Since 2008, Read Aloud has grown to serve 30 county chapters. That growth brings additional opportunities to place books in the hands and homes of children. With BB&T West Virginia Foundation’s support, the organization can provide more children the tools they need to succeed in school and life.

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.

Read Aloud’s reach expands to 30 counties

By Lesley McCullough McCallister

Read Aloud West Virginia was thrilled to add two more counties to its active roster during the fall of 2016 with the formation of chapters in Grant and Ohio counties.

New Read Aloud volunteers in these two counties join those already serving in 28 additional West Virginia counties, all striving to motivate the next generation of West Virginians to want to read.

According to Vanessa Harlow, director of Elementary Education and Federal Programs for Grant County Schools and Grant County chapter president, their chapter already has 30 readers actively serving 35 classrooms in three Grant County elementary schools. Harlow noted the important role Read Aloud West Virginia plays by encouraging community involvement to promote a love of reading to students.

Ohio County Read Aloud Board President Melanie Riddle noted her chapter began meeting monthly this fall and plans to train their first set of volunteers this spring.

“The addition of chapters in Grant and Ohio counties brings Read Aloud’s presence in West Virginia to 30 counties in our 30th year,” said Read Aloud West Virginia Executive Director Mary Kay Bond. “It’s an exciting milestone! We are extremely grateful to Vanessa and Melanie for their efforts and leadership.”

For more information about starting a new chapter in a West Virginia county not being served currently by Read Aloud, please contact the Read Aloud office at (304) 345-5212 or

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

BB&T West Virginia Foundation continues to support Read Aloud Book Distribution programs

By Melody Simpson

The BB&T West Virginia Foundation has awarded Read Aloud a $2,500 grant to support book distribution programs throughout the state. BB&T has provided similar financial support for several years now, and we are grateful for the role they continue to play in helping Read Aloud maintain and expand its book distribution programs.

While West Virginia’s eighth grade reading scores still lag behind the national average, in 2015 they were the only state scores in the country to show a significant improvement, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education in October 2015. However, too many West Virginia children lack access to the tools they need to succeed in school and in life, and books are one of the most important tools required for raising a generation of learners.

Read Aloud has several book distribution programs designed to address this need, including Snuggle and Read (preschool children and families), Reading Round-ups (kindergarten enrollment), Food for Thought (elementary schools), a summer reading pilot program, and even prison workshops and book clubs (to encourage adult inmates to develop reading habits and read to their children).

Thank you, BB&T, for supporting these programs and helping us put books into the hands, and homes, of West Virginia children!