Read Aloud West Virginia is a literacy nonprofit, but if you condense our mission into a single word, “connection” might be the one to use. We often say habits are caught rather than taught. Children catch the reading habit through connections made possible by volunteers, teachers, families and the community at large. This newsletter offers ample evidence of the connections being made. That connection may be due to increased access to books and family involvement (see “Summer reading projects highlight the importance of access and family involvement” article), inspiring and creative teaching (see “No Fear Shakespeare” article) or community programs that raise reading awareness (see “Berkeley County students in Leadership academy recognized” and “The Great American Read” articles). The list goes on.
I have had reason to reflect on my own childhood connection to reading recently and I vividly recall my father’s pride as he asked me to “read” to my grandfather. I was in kindergarten or first grade and my ability was limited, but I was thrilled that these two very special people in my life were excited that I was learning to read. The message was loud and clear—this reading business was really important and worth my time and attention! I also remember my mother in the grocery store saying yes to the purchase of a golden book when the answer was no to candy or a cookie.
This past year, 1,113 trained Read Aloud readers gave that message to students in 1,652 classrooms on a regular basis. Think of it! Assuming 20 students per class, that is 33,040 students who are getting the message that someone cares enough about them and reading to visit the class regularly and share a good book. We know from the teacher evaluations that these visits generate student enthusiasm and interest in books. Additionally, volunteers and donors have enabled us to put books in the hands of more than 8,300 children this school year alone. In a complex world where much seems beyond our control, Read Aloud offers an opportunity for families, educators, donors and volunteers to make a difference. Let’s keep the momentum going!
The end of the school year is a bittersweet time for Read Aloud volunteers. Your dedication and commitment to read to a classroom of children every week has likely yielded dividends, from conversations with students who are excited about reading to big smiles and hugs in the classroom. You might even have received handmade cards from students saying how important you were to the class, recalling favorite stories, and asking you to continue reading next year.
Readers might be sad to say goodbye or ready for a well-deserved hiatus (or perhaps some combination of these). Meanwhile, Read Aloud West Virginia staff is already looking to and preparing for August. That’s why Read Aloud asks volunteer readers to accomplish one more task by completing an end-of-year reader survey.
These quick surveys ask about your experience as a Read Aloud volunteer and your plans for the following school year. When Read Aloud school coordinators return to school in the fall, the state Read Aloud office provides a report that helps coordinators place returning readers into classrooms as soon as possible, as well as identify how many new readers each school needs.
If Read Aloud West Virginia has a valid email address for you, the survey should have arrived in your inbox around the beginning of June. Paper copies will be mailed to those with no email address on record. If you were an active volunteer reader during the 2017-2018 school year and you do not receive a survey by email or mail, please contact Marsha Hoyer at (304) 345-5212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you, readers, for the gift you have given to more than 33,000 children in West Virginia this school year!
PBS has launched an eight-part online and television series to find America’s favorite book! The special project, targeted to adult readers, began on May 22, 2018 and will continue through the summer and fall.
Viewers will vote on their favorite books throughout the series and the list of 100 diverse books will be narrowed down to one. Celebrities, athletes, experts, authors and everyday Americans will participate in the series, alongside host Meredith Vieira. The multi-platform campaign will encompass online and community engagement, including cooperation with local libraries in West Virginia.
The grand finale will air on October 23, 2018 at 8:00 pm. Viewers can follow the Great American Read Facebook page and use the hashtag #GreatReadPBS. This project offers an opportunity for families to discuss their own favorites and explore new titles.
My students at Elkins Mountain School, a placement facility for boys ages 13-17, love to explain these words to the new students who enter our classroom. Shakespeare was a daunting new topic for me as well as for my students this school year. A true confession is that I had only read Romeo and Juliet in high school. Granted, I have seen many of the plays, some multiple times; however, I was not comfortable with the idea of getting through a play with my students who often struggle with reading and lack basic vocabulary. During some history/English cross-curricular collaborative planning, a colleague, Lauren Johnston, English teacher at the West Virginia Children’s Home, encouraged me to go for it, and shared materials she had used successfully.
Just before reading Macbeth, I stumbled across an idea online for using quote cards as a pre-reading activity for the original text of the plays. This simple yet brilliant idea was a hit. Before even reading the prologue, students are introduced to original text quotes that give meaning and anticipation to the play. Students are given a quote card and go through a process together of pronouncing unfamiliar words and practicing delivery of the quote without a context. We did this outside where they were instructed to “mill and seethe” around while quoting aloud to each other. We practiced intonation and then gestures to go with the quotes. Most loved the physical, interactive activity. As a result of this simple activity, students recognized the quotes and understood the context as we read and watched movies and plays using the original texts. Students would excitedly state, “That was ‘my quote,’ Ms. Jeffries!”
Picture books hold a special place in my heart. I try to incorporate them with these young men, always reminding them that it is a very important thing for men to read to their children.
I wanted my students to have a good overview of the play, so I began with the beautifully illustrated Favorite Tales from Shakespeare by Bernard Miles. While I read each of the engaging versions of the plays aloud, students drew an aspect of the story on sketch paper using colored pencils. No Fear Shakespeare by SparkNotes really seemed like cheating to me, a purist about original texts and a critic of condensed or dumbed-down anything. Wow, was I wrong. The text is set up with the original on one side and a modern take on the other. Still clinging to my principles, my first best intention was to have them read the original text aloud while comparing to the modern text. This was not realistic considering the varying levels of reading abilities and the frequent interruptions, absences and new student additions. So, we simply read the No Fear version and, if particularly inspired, each student could read a bit of the original. In this way, we happily and eagerly read through Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet in just one semester. Students clamored to take parts, even the lower reading level students read willingly for the most part. If not, they were in charge of making up sound effects.
We also created an area of banishment in the classroom. Students who did not participate or attend class were banished. Coats of arms created by students for this unit would be moved to the “Ugly and Desolate Area” until a peer would agree to rescue the student by reciting a key speech from the play using gestures and tone, while wearing a silly hat. Students also provided an aesthetic response to the original text from the Queen Mab passage in Romeo and Juliet when they finished that play.
Boys love swords and shields. Elkins Sewing Center collected empty fabric tubes and cardboard forms. With a little metallic paint, and lots of brilliantly colored duct tape, these were crafted into attractive swords and shields sporting family crests from a research activity. Their artwork was showcased at the local library in April as a display for poetry month.
I feel so rewarded by the comments made by these young men.
“Hamlet is one of the most interesting plays I have ever read.”
“It (the unit) was fun, everything about it was interesting. It was a better way of teaching than I have experienced before.”
“What play will we read next?”
Seeing multiple kids signing out the graphic novel versions of Shakespeare’s plays in the original language was another plus. I am now inspired and determined to learn more myself through a future training on non-traditional teaching of Shakespeare next fall. The learning was not short–term with these techniques. So often students memorize or remember for an exam or essay and then forget the material. Not so with this multi-faceted unit. They fell in love with the stories and characters.
These at-risk teens strongly related to the themes of family, young love, betrayal, despair and violence. These young men enjoyed themselves with activities that engaged them and will have pleasant memories of an English class years from now. Did I mention that this learning happened without even having to take a traditional test?
Heidi Jeffries is English Language Arts teacher at Elkins Mountain School in Randolph County.
It was a red carpet night as Read Aloud West Virginia hosted Read-A-Palooza on March 19, 2018, at Paterno’s at the Park in Charleston. The annual event was attended by 220 friends of Read Aloud who enjoyed the event’s theme, “Books to the Big Screen”—a celebration of children’s books that have been adapted into movies.
The purpose of Read-A-Palooza is to raise vital funds for Read Aloud’s programs, as well as to raise awareness of the work Read Aloud does in 30 counties and 210 schools in West Virginia.
As they say in the movie biz, “The award goes to…” our two Signature Sponsors, BrickStreet Insurance and the Elliot Family Foundation, and to Paterno’s for giving us the perfect setting for the popular fundraiser. Many others helped make the event possible, as listed below.
Artwork, excursions, and other exciting items were part of a silent auction that raised funds to help spread the Read Aloud message throughout West Virginia. Many people contributed silent auction items, including gifts from our Berkeley, Boone, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Kanawha, Mingo, Morgan, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Roane and Wood county Read Aloud chapters. We received auction items from friends in California, Massachusetts, New York, South Carolina and Virginia, as well. Monetary donations were received from Berkeley, Jackson, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, Monongalia, Nicholas, Preston, Randolph, Wood and Upshur counties as well as from Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia.
Thanks to all of our friends who contributed auction items and to those who purchased items! Another thanks goes to the Read-A-Palooza committee, led by Hayley Woodrum, who put in countless hours to make the evening a success.
Even though the event was held in Charleston, the movie-themed evening was a state-wide affair, enjoyed by Read Aloud supporters from Boone, Cabell, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Logan, Mingo, Pocahontas, Putnam, Raleigh and Randolph counties.
Read Aloud is deeply indebted to Read-A-Palooza’s sponsors, silent auction and monetary donors and everyone who helped make the event a success. We hope you will join us next year!
Sara Busse is a long-time Charleston resident and community volunteer.
Special thanks to our Read-A-Palooza 2018 Sponsors!
Signature Sponsors: BrickStreet Insurance and The Elliot Family Foundation
Platinum Sponsor: Johnstone & Gabhart
Gold Sponsors: Moses Auto Group, TransCanada Corporation, United Bank
Silver Sponsors: Appalachian Power, Summit Community Bank
Bronze Sponsors: Advanced Eye Care, Assured Partners of WV, LLC, BB&T Wealth, Charleston Pediatric Dentistry