PARKERSBURG - The Read Aloud West Virginia program is recruiting volunteers to read books to elementary school students in Wood County schools.
Read Aloud WV was established in 1986 by state director Mary Kay Bond, but Wood County has not been active in the program for more than a decade. With the help of the Parkersburg Woman's Club, the program is coming alive again.
"The children who become good readers are those who have been read to by an adult," said Becky Deem, a member of the Parkersburg Woman's Club and the Wood County Read Aloud WV steering committee. "Reading to children fosters their imaginations, allowing them to briefly become someone else and see and do things they may not be able to experience directly."
Deem said reading to children improves reading test scores, builds vocabulary and promotes comprehension.
"It's an integral part of education," she said.
Funded in part by the Benedum Foundation, Read Aloud WV aims to create public awareness about the importance of reading to children, from infancy to adolescence. The statewide goal is to reestablish the program in all 55 counties.
The Parkersburg Woman's Club is reestablishing the Read Aloud WV program in Wood County.
The program is looking for volunteers to read books to elementary school children.
The statewide program was created in 1986, but participation in many counties, including Wood County, dwindled over the years.
While the program was successful in Wood County in the 1990s, participation dwindled over the years and volunteer training stopped. The creation of a county steering committee has refocused attention on training and recruitment, said Deem.
"All volunteers have a one-hour training session where we talk about the importance of reading aloud, the program history, tips on how to read and hold the students' interest, and the types of books suitable for different age levels," said Deem.
Wood County has 30 trained readers who regularly read to students in Kanawha, McKinley, Vienna, Neale, Madison, Emerson and Waverly elementary schools in the classroom or during library time.
Participating schools receive Highlight for Children magazine for students and the program newsletter.
"We want to get the community involved, and we are looking for volunteers," said Deem. "Our goal is to get readers in all the elementary schools in Wood County by the beginning of the new school year in August."
Brian Raitz, director of the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library, is a member of the steering committee.
"I'm a huge fan of the program, and I'm really excited to get it going again after nearly a decade of being defunct," said Raitz. "When the kids see community members come into their school and read to them, it makes reading become less of a chore and more of a pleasurable experience."
For more information or to learn how to become a volunteer with Read Aloud WV, contact Becky Deem at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Parkersburg/Wood County Public Library at 304-420-4587.