Rotary learns about literacy problems

The Elkins Rotary welcomed Mary Kay Bond, the executive director of Read Aloud West Virginia, Monday to speak about the issue of apathy towards literacy across the nation and particularly in the Mountain State.

“West Virginia children are behind 45 other states when it comes to reading levels,” she said. “Our children must be able to compete globally.

“This is an issue for students, parents, employers and tax payers. We have to stress the importance of an interest in reading across the board.”

Bond said females lead males by as much as 13-50 percentage points in reading in West Virginia.

“You need reading skills not just for English and communication,” Bond said. “You need them in math to understand word problems, you need them to read your text book in science class. Students spend their first few years in school learning to read and then the rest of their schooling reading to learn.”

Bond talked about how she had traveled across the state to many different schools and found that some elementary schools didn’t have libraries, while others did, but didn’t allow students access to the materials in them.

“You wouldn’t lock the doors to the gym if the basketball team needs to practice,” Bond said. “Why would you not allow students to utilize the services and resources in their own libraries?”

Read Aloud West Virginia was voted the best local non-profit organization in the state by Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. The organization offers four programs in approaching improvement in literacy and promoting reading.

The first approach it takes is through volunteer readers who visit classrooms regularly and serve as “live commercials” for reading. The organization also promotes book distribution, giving students access to print (books, magazines, etc.) and classroom enrichment, assisting teachers with materials and information as they work to build interest in specific books or authors and increasing student access to books in the classroom.

The organization also helps public education through programs that are designed to inform and engage families, community groups and the business sector in promoting children’s enthusiasm for books and reading.

The local chapter is searching for volunteer readers in the community to help offer teachers and students a consistent, high quality read-aloud experience. Before entering the classroom, volunteers are asked to attend one orientation session, covering topics such as research-based educational benefits of reading aloud, classroom guidelines and expectations, choosing books that are age appropriate for various ages, techniques to engage students in the read aloud experience and procedures for being placed in a particular classroom or setting.

For more information about the Randolph County chapter of Read Aloud West Virginia, including volunteering, contact Mary Boyd at 304-516-3993 or Cary Hopwood at Information is also available at Mainline Books in Elkins.

Contact Chad Clem by e-mail at