Read Aloud program ready to get back to the classroom

Suzette Lowe

Readers are learners and leaders. That simple phrase is at the heart of everything that Read Aloud of Jackson County provides for students from kindergarten through fifth grade.

The focus of the read aloud program is to provide a means of getting books into the hands of children and helping them to develop a love of reading. Many methods are used to reach these goals but one of the most important is to supply readers to the classrooms.

“We have had such a vibrant program for the past several years,” said Read Aloud President Janet McCauley. “With the serious health pandemic concerns and the disruption to our schools for the past year and a half, we haven’t been able to get our readers into the classroom.”

At a recent meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education, restrictions were lifted for classroom volunteers. McCauley said this change in policy is allowing read aloud to be in-person once again.

To become a read aloud volunteer requires training. Normally that is done on a local level. This year, with the need to get as many volunteers trained as possible, the West Virginia State Read Aloud organization is offering virtual training.

Pre-registration for the Thursday, Sept. 9, online sessions, which give the option of noon, 5 p.m. or 7 p.m., is required. McCauley said those interested can contact her for the link needed to access the training.

“If that date doesn’t work for those interested, there will be an opportunity on Sept. 22 and 29,” she said.

Readers who have received training in the past are still approved McCauley stated.

“I do need for our former readers to let me know if they want to be placed in the schools,” she said. “We’re starting fresh, in a way. But we’re anxious to get those classrooms started.”

While the traditional program hasn’t been in place for a while, Jackson County Read Aloud has continued to provide access to books in unique ways.

McCauley said over 1,600 books were placed in the hands of students last school year. Innovative methods such as “One Book-One Grade” and “Book Tastings” were used to keep reading at the forefront.

“We provided the first book in the Fantastic Frame series by Lin Oliver to every second-grader,” she said. “We then gave each second-grade classroom one set of the entire series. This was made possible by a grant from the Jackson County Community Foundation.”

Book tastings allowed students in two different grades to sample books and pick ones to keep. These events took place at the elementary schools at Kenna, Gilmore, Evans and Ripley.

Gilmore Elementary students took books home from the “Book Tasting” provided by Read Aloud of Jackson County in May.

Both events were a great success McCauley said.

“One of the teachers, Donna Kay at Evans Elementary, said her students thoroughly enjoyed the One Book program,” she said. “One of our volunteers, Debbie Higginbotham, read it to them virtually which isn’t ideal, but it somehow worked.”

Kay’s students wrote letters to McCauley about their experience with the books.

“My favorite is when they went to France,” Kaesyn wrote. “We got to learn about pointillism which is a type of art and we actually got to do some.”

While the health pandemic made read aloud more difficult, McCauley said the adaptions made did help keep reading a priority.

Still, the most important aspect, the one-on-one, is something the reading volunteers are looking forward to.

Judy Sheets, who has read for several years, said, “I’m so excited to be able to get back with the kids and share wonderful books. I’m hoping to do four different grades this year. I think the kids are as excited as I am.”

For those interested in the new reader training or past readers ready to go back into the classroom, contact McCauley at 304-532-2675.