Kanawha County Participates In Back-to-School Supply Drive for Flood Victims

The West Virginia Department of Education is leading a multi-county effort to help schools affected by the June flooding in West Virginia to replenish their lost supplies and provide needed materials for students. A Back-to-School Supply Drive will take place July 17-30 with collection sites operating throughout Kanawha County.

“Thousands of our children experienced the devastation of the recent catastrophic floods in our beloved state,” said State Board of Education member Beverly Kingery. “These children will soon return to school and many will return with few belongings and still much uncertainty in their lives.”

The goal of the drive is to provide each individual student in the severely affected flood areas with a book bag of school supplies. Organizers have set a goal of collecting 8,000 book bags with supplies such as pencils, ink pens and rulers.

A list of needed school supplies, grouped by grade level, is available on the West Virginia Department of Education website.

Collection sites in Kanawha County include the following locations during business hours:

After items are collected, they will be packaged by volunteers and distributed to affected schools as the new academic year begins.

More than 20 people died and thousands of homes, schools and businesses were damaged as a result of flash flooding that struck multiple counties in West Virginia in June. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has made federal disaster declarations for a number of counties.

The West Virginia Department of Education is partnering with Read Aloud West Virginia and West Virginia State University Extension Service to collect donations in Kanawha County.

For further details and a statewide list of collection sites, visit the West Virginia Department of Education website.

Weimer Elementary scores a “hat trick” with morning muffins, donuts

By Melody Simpson

Becky Ryder, Read Aloud school coordinator and Title I reading teacher at Weimer Elementary School in Saint Albans, had three problems to solve: how to get her students more interested in reading, how to get books into their hands and homes, and how to get parents involved, both at the school and in their children’s success? Fortunately, she and the school came up with an innovative approach to address all three.

In January 2016, Weimer hosted a “Muffins with Moms” event one morning between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m., to catch moms (as well as grandmothers and other caregivers) as they were dropping off children at school. (Notices were sent home to alert them in advance.) On another morning in February, the school hosted “Donuts with Dads.” Both events were wildly successful, with 40 to 50 adults attending each one (counting the children, over 100 attended each event). The parents were welcomed and given snacks and drinks, and their children were permitted to choose a free book from a varied selection provided by Read Aloud. Parents then read the books to (or with) their children before the regular school day began.

“The first event was held in the school’s library, but we had so many attending it spilled over into my classroom,” Ryder commented. They moved the “Dads” event into the cafeteria to avoid this “wonderful” overcrowding problem. Ryder believes the timing of the events was key to their success. “When we’ve had family nights or PTO events in the evening, attendance has tended to be very low,” Ryder said. They were thrilled to have so many of the parents attending each event.

Ryder is passionate about making all Weimer students lifelong readers, but she recognizes that many of them face significant hurdles, not the least of which is simply the absence of books to read at home. She hopes to have some sort of book event once a month next year, if finances permit, during which students will be able to choose a book to take home. In addition, since many Weimer students do not live in traditional or stable housing, she plans to provide book bags to hold the students’ personal libraries. A Little Free Library was installed on the school grounds in May and Ryder also intends to request visits from the Kanawha County Public Library’s Bookmobile.

Ryder was extremely grateful to Read Aloud for the books: she commented the group even was able to provide her with books that were likely to appeal to men for the “Dads” event.  She hopes she can replicate the success of “Muffins with Moms” and “Donuts with Dads” next school year.

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


Collaboration for Imagination

By Sara Busse

Country music legend Dolly Parton has a dream: to put books in the hands of young children across America. Thanks to Marion Tanner, that dream is becoming reality in Fayette County.

On May 7th, the Fayette County Read Aloud chapter hosted an event to launch Parton’s program, Imagination Library, to the families of the area. According to Tanner, it was a day to remember.

“Seeing all of those young families bringing in their babies with ribbons in their hair and all dressed up to get books—I haven’t seen anything like that in a long time!” Tanner exclaimed.

Tanner and Linda Cole are chapter co-presidents of Read Aloud in Fayette County. They are expanding the organization to put readers in all county elementary schools. The introduction of Dolly’s program will supplement their efforts by providing access to books for the areas youngest residents.

“We have so many kids who come to kindergarten that have never held a book,” the compassionate retired teacher said. “This encourages them to start libraries of their own.”

Cole and Tanner attended Read Aloud’s summer conference in 2015 and heard Nancy Hanna speak. Hanna works with the Greenbrier County Campaign for Grade Level Reading and talked about resources they were utilizing in the county. Imagination Library was one.

Parton’s initiative provides a book a month to children, ages birth to five, who are registered with the program and living in an area with a sponsor, like Read Aloud in Fayette County. The local group procures money to pay for mailing the books to the children.

“It’s $2.10 per student each month,” Tanner explained. “At the Read Aloud conference, [Hanna] talked about Early Literacy Grants—and one of the things they could be used for was to purchase Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for their school system. I asked the Title One people in our county what they spent that money for, and found out we could apply.” Tanner received a grant through the state and through the Fayette County Board of Education.

Tanner and Cole are members of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international group of women educators, instrumental in organizing the Fayette County Read Aloud program. Many of the Fayette chapter’s members were on hand for the launch of Imagination Library on May 7th in the Oak Hill High School cafeteria.

“It was really rewarding for so many of us from Delta Kappa Gamma. We have all been teachers in the area, and nearly every young parent there was someone we had in school. Now they were bringing in their babies to get books,” Tanner said. The members of Delta Kappa Gamma did face painting and hosted a story corner with  Clifford the dog. Many other community organizations participated in or donated to the event.

Kroger donated water, Marquee Cinemas in Beckley gave us popcorn,” Tanner said. Other participants included the Fayetteville Women’s Club with a “Jack and the Beanstalk” theme, complete with “magic beans” for the children to plant; the Mount Hope Lions Club with a fishing game as well as eyesight testing; The National Park Service with “Furs and Skulls” (from animals you could find in the New River Gorge such as skunks, otter, fox, etc.); and the West Virginia Treasurer’s office promoting Smart 529 college accounts.

Tanner credits Robin Taylor, Program Director of Imagination Library, of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, with making the Fayette program possible. The department gave the Fayette group a $500 grant to kick off the program.

“We used that money to buy books—we gave books to the brothers and sisters who came in so every child could get a book at the event,” Tanner said. “We registered 160 kids at the event.” After the event, the Fayette Read Aloud group went to the Meadow Bridge library and the Montgomery Library and registered children there, as well. The public libraries in the county will have registration forms, and families can also register online.

While the event was a great success, Tanner is realistic and knows there is a lot of work ahead.

“There are 2,600 kids eligible for the program,” she explained. “When I was a middle school teacher, there were kids who were so far behind because they couldn’t read. But we did something that just might make a difference.

“This is a labor of love—you want them to be successful. It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.”

For information on the Imagination Library program, visit www.imaginationlibrary.com. For information about other Imagination Library programs in West Virginia, contact Robin Taylor, Program Director, of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, at robin.j.taylor@wv.gov.

Sara Busse is a long-time Charleston resident and community volunteer. Her work at Trinity’s Table earned her recognition as a 2016 YWCA Woman of Achievement.


Photos (l-r): Christie and Grant Campbell registered their children, Christian (l) and Destiny (r), for Imagination Library at Oak Hill High School, May 7; Kathy Coleman (center), Delta Kappa Gamma member, read Jack and the Beanstalk to Brooklyn (l) and Maxx Davis.  The Fayetteville Women’s Club provided materials for children to plant their own magic beans.  Kathy is also a member of the FWC; Clifford, the Big Red Dog was a big hit with young listeners at the launch event.

The community that reads together

By Nikki Moses

If you asked, “What are YOU Reading?” in Randolph County last winter, you most likely heard a resounding retort: To Kill a Mockingbird. The GFWC Elkins Woman’s Club, the Rotary Club, students from Elkins Mountain School and others came together to read Harper Lee’s classic in February.

The effort was led by Randolph County’s Read Aloud President, Mary Boyd, and supported by the Women’s Club, which gave $100. They challenged the Rotary to read, hosted an essay contest with a $50 prize and invited the community to a screening of the movie version of the book at the Old Brick Playhouse in Elkins.

The essay prize was captured by a tenth grader at Elkins Mountain School. Teacher Heidi Jeffries “took this project and ran with it,” Boyd said. “She read the book with 60 students, and they really connected with it.”

One was the young man who walked away with the essay prize. “He was over the moon,” Boyd said.

People were asked to write about what, if any, prejudices exist against African Americans. The essay contest winner responded that although prejudice is less prevalent  and less evident than it used to be, it still exists, and not for African Americans alone.

“The prejudice portrayed in the book is something I know firsthand. I am not an African American, although I’ve been discriminated against due to size, attractiveness and ethnic background. I am treated differently because I’m in placement and I also don’t have a family and am made fun of because of it. I tolerate this on a daily basis, and know it won’t stop but will continue.

One time I was at school when another kid found out that I was in a placement facility as a ward of the state and didn’t have a family. They announced that no one should make acquaintance with me or hang out with someone like me. I heard another student make a comment about me, ‘He doesn’t have a family and he’s a juvenile, he’s bound to be trouble; and if you hang around someone like that you’re bound to be in trouble too.’ All of my friends or the people that I thought were my friends instantly quarantined me. It was a big blow and this hurt. In these circumstances it didn’t end justly.”

Boyd said preliminary plans are underway for another reading event in the fall. She is a Randolph County pediatrician who has also participated in the Reach Out and Read program, where patients ages six months to five years receive a book each time they visit her for a checkup, for more than 20 years.

Nikki Moses is the former editor of the Read Aloud newsletter and a board member. She is an active volunteer in the Charleston community.


Photo courtesy of Mary Boyd: Boyd and teacher Heidi Jeffries visit with the winner of the To Kill a Mockingbird essay contest.