PARKERSBURG - Retired Wood County school teacher Becky Deem said a group of women in West Virginia started a Read Aloud program in 1986 to teach young children the importance of reading.
Deem, a local volunteer, said since being coordinated during the 1990s, the reading program in Wood County has slowly dwindled. Deem is helping to bring back the program for schools in the county and encourages local volunteers to help.
The state executive director of the Read Aloud program, Mary K. Bond, approached Deem to launch the initiative further in Wood County, she said.
From left, Brian Raitz, director of the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library; Beckie Berlin; Sherel Daniels; Becky Deem; Jamie Parks and Larry Maxwell attend a volunteer Read Aloud training session at the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library on Tuesday.
"Reading to a child (teaches) them to listen, language skills and helps them develop," Deem said. "It offers them an imagination."
Training programs have been set up at the Parkersburg and Wood County Public Library for volunteers who want to offer their reading voice to young children.
"We train volunteers," she said. "Some parents, a lot of grandparents whose grandchildren live far away and they want to be close to children," she said.
Deem said giving people who are older the opportunity to connect with young children makes them happy, and can be the highlight of the volunteers' week.
"(Volunteers are) offering the experiences that (the children) wouldn't have if they weren't read to," Deem said of children in the schools where the program exists.
Deem said she enjoys reading to children in her retirement years. She taught for 34 years and has her own collection of children's books to choose from.
"The more reading children do the better they perform in school," she said. "The more likely they are to become lifelong readers."
Lois Meadows is a retired teacher from Emerson Elementary School and a certified reading specialist and National Writing Fellow. Meadows has been president of the Wood County Reading Council several times and has brought nationally known authors to Wood County students for more than 20 years.
Meadows is serving as co-chair to the committee on growing the Read Aloud program in the county. Meadows works with the reading council to get connected to the teachers and principals of the various schools.
"Reading aloud is research based," she said. "It's one of the most worthwhile and best methods to help children become better students."
Children can listen to a volunteer read a book that is at a higher readability level and become interested in those authors or want to get the book from the library to follow along while the volunteer reads, Meadows said.
"The large majority of our children do not see adults reading in their homes now," she said. "Reading helps increase attention span and vocabulary."
For information on the training sessions contact the library director Brian Raitz.
Participating counties in the Read Aloud program are Berkeley, Cabell, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jefferson, Kanawha, Mercer, Mingo, Monongalia, Morgan, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Putnam, Raleigh, Randolph, Roane, Summers, Upshur and Wood.