Energy Express keeps kids reading

Energy Express, an award-winning statewide summer reading program in its 20th year, has two sites in Randolph County this summer. Students began gathering at George Ward and Third Ward Elementary Schools this week, working on reading, writing and art.

The program serves more than 70 children in Randolph County, providing two meals a day and reading-based educational activities that help children maintain their reading skills and good nutrition during the summer months.

College students and community residents serve as AmeriCorps members supporting the program. Students working with the program receive a living expense stipend and monies for their college education.

This is Erica Pifer’s first year working with the program. She is a mentor at George Ward Elementary.

“I am pursuing a degree in education and I think being a mentor in Energy Express is a wonderful learning experience,” Pifer said. “The experience I receive will give me an insight into teaching and will bring out my inner child while working with youth. I want to make learning fun for the kids and have fun helping them learn.”

Energy Express county coordinator Amanda Johnson said the program is a great opportunity for students.

“Many children from low-income families fall behind, both nutritionally and academically, during the summer months,” said Johnson. “This program ensures that they receive good nutrition and stay involved in fun and educational activities. Energy Express has been shown to help children not only maintain their reading skills during the summer, but often to actually improve them.

“We depend on support from the local community to make this program a success,” said Johnson. “We need local volunteers to read with the children, to help serve meals and to donate supplies for the program.”

Linda Mullenax, the site supervisor for Third Ward Elementary, said there is still a need for volunteers.

“We would love to have community members volunteer to help at our site,” Mullenax said. “We would also welcome guest readers to come in once weekly and read to the students.”

Mullenax said Third Ward Elementary has 40 students in the program and 60 more on a waiting list.

“At our school kids do many fun reading-related activities,” Mullenax said. “Students each receive eight books that they can keep. Activities include reading out loud, acting out plays, acting out stories and supervised recreation. We have also submitted ideas for approval for the students to complete service projects.”

Ashley Kimble, the George Ward Elementary site coordinator, said Energy Express fulfills several needs for local children.

“This program is so important for kids,” Kimble said. “It is only half a day for six weeks and is not the entire summer. We try to structure the program so it doesn’t feel like school. It’s not just sitting around learning. It is fun – it has home-style meals two times a day and fun-filled learning activities. There is also time for art and exercise and the kids really enjoy the program.”

Major funding for Energy Express comes from the West Virginia University Extension Service, the West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service, the Summer Food Service Program through the West Virginia Department of Education and the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

In addition to these state partners, the program is also supported by local partners including the Randolph County Family Resource Network and the Randolph County school system.

Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at