This month’s featured member works to put books in the hands and on the minds of West Virginia’s children. On the first day a Read Aloud West Virginia volunteer read to a classroom of children, a child asked why she was there. When she explained she would be reading aloud to the class once a week, he replied that he hated both reading and books. Undaunted, the volunteer read that day and reliably read to the classroom each week. Then, around the middle of the semester, the volunteer walked into the classroom and noticed a book on the little boy’s desk. It was a book she had read to the class earlier in the year. “I thought you told me you didn’t like books and you didn’t like to read?” she said to the little boy. He replied, “Well, I didn’t think I did, but that book was so good when you read it, I wanted to read it again.” In less than a semester, she had changed his attitude about reading and opened up a new door to his education.
Read Aloud West Virginia’s aim is just that: to improve the literacy climate in West Virginia by motivating children to want to read, because motivation is the essential first step toward acquiring any skill. Read Aloud offers research-based programs in four different categories: community education, volunteer readers, book distribution, and classroom enrichment. Read Aloud bases their programs on research that shows that children who are read to regularly, have access to print, and connect reading with pleasure instead of drudgery have larger vocabularies, work to develop their own reading skills, and become more proficient readers.
Recently, Read Aloud’s vision and programs have paid off. In the most recent National Assessment for Educational Progress report, West Virginia was the only state in the nation to post significant gains in reading at the 8th grade level. That report also indicated the gap between the reading scores of male and female students in the state is closing. Although there are many factors involved in a child’s reading education, Read Aloud works to help students value reading enough to put forth a strong effort in the classroom, and this has made an obvious impact.
Currently, Read Aloud West Virginia is working with a number of organizations to coordinate efforts to provide backpacks, school supplies, and books to students in the schools affected by last month’s devastating floods. They will also hold their conference for the leaders of their 29 chapters later this month. This conference allows volunteers from around the state to meet to share challenges, successes, and plans for the year ahead. “We have been particularly pleased by the way this conference has strengthened our volunteer network and overall program,” said Mary Kay Bond, Read Aloud’s Executive Director. “We are seeking to do a lot with a very small staff, and we could not accomplish what we do without this network and the resulting collaborations and projects. Our goal is to grow the program so that we can have an impact on children and families throughout all of West Virginia’s fifty-five counties.”