Morgan County Read Aloud needs volunteer readers for kids
Morgan County Read Aloud is holding two orientations for volunteers that are interested in reading to classrooms of children.
After completing an orientation, volunteers could read to Energy Express classrooms this summer, said Morgan County Starting Points Director Audrey Morris. The program will kick off at Morgan County Schools this fall.
The orientations are scheduled on Monday, June 11 at 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday, June 12 at 10 a.m. at the Morgan County School Board office. They are two hours long.
Volunteers will learn tips from Read Aloud West Virginia executive director Mary Kay Bond on how to use expression, do character voices and how to connect to kids while reading to them, Morris said.
Volunteers must be willing to commit to read books for a specified time, such as on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis. All readings will be done in the classroom with the teacher present, she said. Volunteers could read to one class or to a group of classrooms.
They hope to do the program county-wide from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, Morris said. It may take a couple of years to get enough volunteers.
A school coordinator will be needed at each school to schedule volunteers. They will try to match volunteers up geographically with schools and accommodate requests for reading to preferred age groups.
Having community volunteers read to classes was important, she said.
“They have different knowledge and experiences they can bring. They talk about their vacations, hobbies and jobs and give a different perspective than they’d usually hear,” Morris said.
A committee consisting of Starting Points staff, Morgan County Schools personnel, Early Head Start staff, area literacy volunteers, Morgan County Public Library staff, community organization representatives and others came together in 2010 to talk about literacy concerns and ways to get children and adults reading.
Core members continued to meet and kept their original mission of promoting public awareness of reading to and with children. The group’s vision is “Raising Readers.”
The group revved up their efforts in January for how to increase reading comprehension at every grade level. County reading/language scores have been lower than state scores at most schools, Morris said. The question was how to raise the reading proficiency rates.
Their goal is to improve the reading levels of students so they enjoy reading, she said. There is a need for reading materials that are more oriented for boys in school libraries.
Bonding with Books
One way to encourage the children’s desire to read was to fund reading during the school day, she said. Starting Points received a $3,000 grant from the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation for their Bonding with Books program. They have purchased 1,500 to 1,900 books with the grant.
Once a month AmeriCorps Vista Misty Stallard takes hand-quilted tote bags made by Mildred Sharp to Doodlebugs Learning Center.
Each child receives a tote bag with a new hard-backed book and information that explain why it’s important for parents to read to children, Morris said. They also have a guest reader come to read one or two books to the kids. The children return the tote bags for the next book shipment.
West Virginia School Superintendent Jorea Marple is encouraging reading, she said. Morgan County Schools Superintendent David Banks is very supportive of the Read Aloud efforts, which Morris called a partnership.
Bond shared research with the committee that showed that a child from a literacy environment starts kindergarten exposed to many millions more words than a kid from a non-literacy background does.
The child that doesn’t have that vocabulary is already starting out behind, Morris said. One way to increase that vocabulary exposure is to read aloud to children for fun every day.
Morgan County Read Aloud hopes to interest current PASS volunteers, retirees and community members who have a love for reading to children to sign up for the program.
They plan to offer another orientation in the fall and hope to also get some high school students involved as readers.
Call Starting Points at 304-258-5600 to register for the orientation if interested in being a Morgan County Read Aloud volunteer reader.