Demand is growing. We have more than 400 classrooms across West Virginia who want a Read Aloud reader but don’t yet have one. Can you, your workplace or your organization help us meet that demand to motivate children to WANT to read?
Parents and teachers are making the connection that research shows: Children who read for fun tend to read more, and with that practice, they grow more proficient. This affordable, achievable daily habit pays off throughout school and life.
So, our job as adults is to create that thriving environment for children, where we turn to a book for fun, entertainment, even comfort. One way Read Aloud West Virginia helps children to catch this habit is by modeling reading for fun each week. Read Aloud sends volunteer readers into more than 1,400 classrooms each week to share their love of a good story.
We’re happy to report that demand is growing. We have more than 400 teachers who want one of our readers but don’t yet have one. So here’s the pitch:
1. If you are currently reading in one class and your schedule could handle a second, please let us know. There might be a classroom down the hall that would love to have you. It could be that for the same preparation, you could have double the impact.
2. If you’re enjoying reading, consider recommending Read Aloud to a friend or colleague. Have them send us their contact details, and we will notify them of the next orientation.
3. Consider arranging an orientation. If you can gather 10 or more people at your workplace, church group, book club, college or other organization, we will come to you. After an informative, motivating orientation, we are often able to match readers with classrooms on the spot.
Our volunteer readers go out to do good and help others, but they regularly come back with stories about making connections that they never dreamed of.
In January, we want to fill those vacancies. We want to help those teachers help their students find the right book that opens new worlds for them. Will you Resolve to Read with us? Give us a call at 304-345-5212 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org .
Read Aloud volunteers see children engage with books and expand their vocabularies and literacy skills, and so much more.
By Jennifer Bonnette Funk
What might seem like a small act of kindness at first can turn out to have a big and positive impact on someone’s world.
Each week on my day off, I read aloud as part of Read Aloud West Virginia. I read to three classrooms at West Preston School. The other day, I was reading a story to one of the classes rather excitedly with silly voices, as I often do, and one of the students handed me a note. She was so proud to give me the letter and was smiling so brightly.
In the note, she wrote, “Dear Mrs. Funk, you are the best reader and the best voice maker. There are no other persons like you. You are the best of the best.” The note included a hand drawn picture of me reading a book to the class.
It was so unexpected and overwhelmingly sweet. I was so moved by her act of kindness, I wrote her a letter back. In the letter, I said that she had made my day much brighter when I read her wonderful letter. Then, I said that getting to read to her and the other students brings me joy and is the highlight of my week.
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.
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
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.
The annual Read Aloud Conference brings chapter representatives together from all across West Virginia and gives them opportunities to share challenges, success stories and reader experiences from their counties. Here are a few ideas shared at this year’s conference from readers around the state. Perhaps one will inspire you!
A Cherished Note
Lesley McCullough McCallister of Kanawha County found that reading to a combined class of 23 second graders at Mary C. Snow Elementary was a rewarding experience for her and one that had a dramatic impact on her students, one in particular. Lesley’s children attend a different school but she already reads to them and wanted to reach out to another school in the community. By the end of the school year, she witnessed students who were once unsettled become attentive listeners. Lesley felt that it was a “privilege to come into the classroom each week” and wanted to thank the students for letting her share reading with them. She gave each student a stuffed “Pete the Cat,” the featured character in their favorite books—some of which she read to the students more than once based on their requests. She also included a thank you note to each student expressing her gratitude for a great year and also encouraging the students to continue reading throughout the summer. (She noted Pete the Cat loved to read.) The children were delighted with their gifts but the note struck a particular chord with one child.
A young boy in Lesley’s class approached her with the note he had received. “I will cherish this always,” he said. “This is my most prized possession.” Lesley noted that students may have never received individual notes of appreciation. This simple personal touch reaches students beyond the interaction volunteers have while reading and leaves a lasting impression on the students. Lesley said it well, “sometimes you don’t realize you are reaching them, but you are.”
Casey Willson of Berkeley County made that same connection by creating personalized bookmarks which he distributed to each student in the class he read to at the end of the school year. Casey and Ms. Edwards, the classroom teacher, were featured in group photos on the bookmarks along with an encouraging message to the students to keep reading through summer. The bookmarks are useful and serve as a reminder of their experience with the reader.
Readers Find Creative Ways to Continue Connection When Out of Town
Sometimes readers are unable to make their scheduled classroom time. Bob Fleenor (Berkeley County) and Betsy Howard (Fayette County) used technology to avoid missing a visit with their respective classes. Working in advance with the teachers in those classes, they arranged to use Skype or FaceTime to read to the kids. Other readers have sent postcards to their classes to let them know they miss them. Each strategy reinforces the importance of the read aloud experience to the reader as well as the students.
Bringing the Book to Life
Mary Boyd is a busy woman! She is a pediatrician, President of the Randolph County Read Aloud Chapter and a regular Read Aloud volunteer. Most of her classroom visits and readings do not include props, but last year she treated the class to one visit with a more dramatic flair. Mary brought a special guest, one of her medical students, Will, to her regular class of kindergarten students. Will dressed as a shark and Mary dressed as a fisherman as they read The Rainbow Fish and a book about sea turtles. The students were given a real-life commercial for reading and had a lot of fun seeing the books come to life.
Though it is not required of volunteer readers to go the extra mile with personal touches like books, notes, Skyping and props, these simple but creative ideas are great ways to impact students not just through summer, but for a lifetime.
Berkeley County Chapter Board Member and Volunteer Reader Casey Willson poses with his class after a successful year!