Read Aloud West Virginia (WV) was founded in October 1986 by a small group of individuals brought together by Mary K. Bond. This organization was concerned with literacy rates among children in West Virginia. These individuals wanted to motivate children to want to read. Once the children learned to read they hoped to encourage reading for leisure.
This strictly volunteer program sponsors various methods of promoting reading. These include: readers in schools, community outreach, enrichment, book distribution, and public education. Read Aloud WV also collaborates with various other organizations with complementary missions. Despite their varied approaches and collaborative relationships, they always seek to keep central their core mission to “share the joys of literature and promote a lifelong love of reading.”
By 1993, Read Aloud WV had expanded into eight counties. In that year the Education Alliance began administering the program. By 2000, Read Aloud WV was serving 53 of West Virginia’s 55 counties. When the Education Alliance shifted their focus to research and advocacy the Read Aloud programs dropped to four. In 2007, Read Aloud because an independent 501(c) nonprofit organization.
The Benedum Foundation awarded Read Aloud WV a grant in 2008, for the purpose of expanding its programs into 16 counties within two years. Currently Read Aloud WV has a presence in: Berkeley, Cabell, Kanawha, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Raleigh, Roane, Pocahontas, and Upshur Counties. Read Aloud WV is in the process of growing to include chapters in: Greenbrier, Jefferson, Morgan, Nicholas, Preston, Putnam, Randolph, Summers, and Tucker Counties.
The Read Aloud program is a win/win experience for everyone involved. It offers a wonderful opportunity for businesses to get involved in fight for literacy. There are numerous ways a company can get involved. For example it could adopt a class room to supply readers. The program will provide on sight training to all volunteers.
Read Aloud Programs
Read Aloud sponsors a variety of programs but all have one mission. That is to motivate children to want to read. Typically, chapters choose the programs which best meet the needs of their counties. A brief summary of available programs is provided below:
Readers in Schools
Read Aloud trains readers and works with coordinators in individual schools (primarily elementary at the present time although some counties include middle and high schools) to schedule regular readers in classroom settings. The importance of trained volunteer readers cannot be over-emphasized. It helps ensure that the quality of the program is maintained. Classroom teachers are sharing valuable time with our volunteers and we want to make sure that the Read Aloud experience is a positive one for students and readers alike. Orientation sessions include information on book selection, classroom expectations (i.e. length of classroom visits, teachers are expected to remain in the room, etc.) and a discussion on the differences in reading to a large group of students versus reading to one or two children at home. Trainers also share information on the latest research regarding the role of Read Aloud in motivating children to want to read.
Students Reading to Students- Orientation sessions are also provided (upon request) to student groups interested in reading to younger students. Participating high schools have noted multiple benefits arising from this program. Older students improve their own reading skills while serving as a powerful reading role model for younger students. Teachers report a noticeable improvement in the behavior and standard of dress in students serving as readers. An additional, important benefit of this program is the opportunity it provides to reach the next generation of parents and make them aware of the importance of reading to children beginning in infancy.
Read Aloud works with various community organizations to train parents and volunteers to read on a regular basis at pre-schools, shelters and day care centers. This facet of the program also works to promote parental awareness of the importance of reading to children and raising them in a “print rich environment”.
Read Aloud volunteers sponsor an annual Christmas Party at Sojourner’s at which age appropriate books are distributed to participants. (The Christmas Party is sponsored only in Kanawha County)
Author Month/Week –Classroom materials highlighting the works of a single author or, in some instances, a variety of authors writing about a similar theme are developed and distributed to teachers throughout the county. Some of the authors who have been featured to date are: Bill Peet, Patricia Pollacco, Steven Kellogg, Gloria Houston and Jane Yolen. Some of the themes highlighted include: WV Authors, America, A Laugh for Every Age and Winning Pairs (husband and wife authors). Monongalia county volunteers typically write and perform a play based upon a particular book featured during Author Month. Other counties purchase video interviews of featured authors.
Art Contest – Originally an outgrowth of the Author Week/Month program, this contest invites elementary school students to submit original art work on various literature based themes. Applications are mailed to principals, librarians and art teachers in early fall. A panel of judges selects the winning entries. Students submitting winning entries are recognized at the West Virginia Book Festival in October. Additionally, a book is donated in each winner’s name to his or her school library. (To date, only Kanawha County has offered this program.)
Read Aloud on TV/Radio – Volunteers share their excitement for books by reading weekly on a cable access program produced by Capitol High students in Charleston. In years past WV Public Broadcasting produced a program featuring children’s literature but it was discontinued.
Read Aloud seeks to put books in the hands of students through a variety of programs as outlined below.
Reading Round-up - Working in conjunction with public schools, volunteers distribute paperback books to students participating in the spring Kindergarten Round-up.
Food for Thought- Funded by various grants through the years, this program makes books available to students at prices comparable to snacks sold at the school. Due to limited funding, four different schools are chosen each year. (In the past, some books have been sold through donated vending machines alongside machines containing crackers, etc.; others are sold through the use of snack carts.)
Books for Babies – A board books and brochure detailing the importance of reading to children from the outset are distributed through hospitals and adoption groups. Read Aloud is not currently sponsoring this program but has hopes to re-institute it if funding is obtained.
Schools cannot bear the sole responsibility for raising readers. Parents, relatives and neighbors serve as critically important role models in the life of children. These individuals have the opportunity to influence a child’s perception of education and help him or her develop positive reading habits. As a result, Read Aloud works consistently to raise public awareness regarding: 1) the importance of reading to children from infancy into adolescence, 2) the value of a “print rich” environment in developing readers, 3) the existence of the Read Aloud organization and the various programs sponsored by Read Aloud and 4) the need for volunteers and funding to help Read Aloud as it continues to work to motivate children to want to read.
Read Aloud unveiled its website in 2008 (readaloudwestvirginia.org). The goal of the website is to provide parents, teachers and volunteer readers with suggestions for good read aloud books. Additionally, we hope the site will help connect volunteers to the overall organization and give individuals an opportunity to share personal read aloud stories and obtain information which will be beneficial as they work with children to motivate them to want to read. A quarterly newsletter mailed to volunteers and contributors serves a similar function. In 2009, the organization began using Twitter to share information with interested individuals. That address is: www.twitter.com/Read_Aloud_WV.
Read Aloud volunteers are also available to speak to civic groups, service organizations, parent organizations and faculty meetings to share Read Aloud’s message.
Read Aloud Partnerships and Collaborations: A cornerstone of Read Aloud’s philosophy has been to partner with business and other organizations whenever possible. This collaboration enables Read Aloud to focus on its core mission and work with other groups in their areas of expertise. Our established partnerships with government agencies and non-profits include: The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, Verizon Foundation, , The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Jacobson Foundation, Imagination Library, Literacy Volunteers (local chapters) The WV Library Commission, Energy Express, County Extension Services The Kanawha County Commission and educational departments in West Virginia’s public and private colleges. Additionally, we were recently contacted by The Education Alliance regarding the development of a partnership. Corporate supporters include: Appalachian Electric Power, Brickstreet Insurance, City Holding Company, Columbia Gas, Contemporary Galleries, Dream Catchers, Enterprise Rental, Highlights magazine, Jackson Kelly PLLC, Lane Law Firm, Moses Automotive, Precision Pump and Valve and Verizon.