Monthly Archives: November 2015

Giving Thanks: Our Board and Staff are Thankful for…

I’m most thankful for the dedication and passion of the LKC staff and volunteers. They make the difference! -Ed Nickel, Board Member


Eze & friends at Martin Luther King, Jr's childhood home

Eze & friends at Martin Luther King, Jr’s childhood home



Eze Redwood, Google Fellow: 

I am very thankful for the Goosebumps and Encyclopedia Brown series’ of books. Together they exposed me the “choose your own adventure” style that has captured my attention and made me love reading!





Rachel's cat, Purr

Rachel’s cat, Purr



Rachel Cash, Fund Development Manager: 

I am grateful that I started graduate school this fall. It is a blessing to be able to learn new things every day.

I am also grateful for my cat, Purr.




Gillian & family

Gillian & family




Gillian Helm, Executive Director:
I am grateful that I get to rediscover all the books, words, language, and laughter I loved as a child through the literary explorations of my own little ones every day.




Claire enjoying KC nightlife

Claire enjoying KC nightlife



Claire Bishop, Board Member:
I am thankful to live in a great city with a phenomenal community of smart, kind and active citizens. Proud to call this great place home!



Haley (left) & friend at 2015 Royals Home Opener

Haley (left) & friend at 2015 Royals Home Opener


Haley Box, Director of Information Systems:

As a child, my father would sit down with my brother and I each night before bed, cut up an apple slice by slice with a pocket knife – for what we called our “bednight snack” – and read to us from one of many books in our home library. I’m grateful to have grown up part of a family in which reading is valued for its versatile power to educate, entertain, and spark curiosity in the unknown. I’m also grateful, like most KC natives, for the Kansas City Royals!



Will & Literacy KC student Shirley Lewis

Will & Literacy KC student Shirley Lewis

Will Orlowski, Ticket to Read Program Coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA:

Literacy is the most important way that I connect with and make sense of the world I live in. It allows me to relate to real-world friends, explore the abstract and difficult challenges that life faces us with, and express and articulate myself in a meaningful way.


Sarah & brother, Brian

Sarah & brother, Brian

Sarah Bell, Ticket to Read Program Instructor and Digital Outreach Coordinator:
For as long as I can remember, books have been a source of happiness and comfort for me. They have many uses and provide numerous benefits, but I am especially thankful for literature. A good book opens up new worlds, provides rich characters to learn from, and inspires empathy and understanding of human nature.


Lindsey (right) & family at MU Homecoming

Lindsey (right) & family at MU Homecoming

Lindsey Clark, Family Reading Program Coordinator and AmeriCorps VISTA:
I am most thankful for my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Wilson, because he created a competitive book club called Battle of the Books. Each week, the teams would have to read a book and then would answer trivia questions about it in front of our parents, other students and our teachers. Battle of the Books made reading fun, competitive and challenging, and I attribute it to why I love reading so much today!


Kate (far left) and family

Kate (far left) and family

Kate Brown, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator:
I’m thankful for my parents who created a home that valued reading which developed in me a deep love for the written word and for my mom who tirelessly (even when she fell asleep in the middle of a chapter!) read out loud to my brother and me every night before we went to bed when we were little.


Paul and wife Amelia at Union Station for the Royals parade 2015

Paul and wife Amelia at Union Station for the Royals parade 2015

Paul Rosenboom, Board Member:
I am thankful for my uncle Lloyd. When my cousins and I were young, he would gift us children’s books which were often signed by the author. At the signings, he would inquire about inspirations for the story or characters or the author’s background and relay the added color to us. This would make the reading more interesting and add something special to already enjoyable books.


Julia and son, Elijah

Julia and son, Elijah



Julia Wendt, Instructional Team Leader:
I am thankful that our Kansas City Royals are truly World Champions again!!! I am also thankful for my wonderful Literacy KC community, and all of my loved ones!



Judy Pfannenstiel, Board Member:
I continue to be thankful for the public library that was available to a rural child like me. We had no books in our home, but each week my parents would take us kids to the library where each child would check out the maximum limit of 10 books. And I’m thankful for my parents, who chose to ignore the fact that I would read with a flashlight under the covers well after everyone had gone to bed!

Rekha Patnaik, Board Member:
I am most thankful to my daughter for her love of reading. At a tender age of 5, she is smitten by books in four different languages: English, Hindi, Russian and Spanish! I am also thankful to my parents for providing me with resources and love to inculcate the respect for books and drive for academic achievement.

Phil Denver, Instructor:
I am thankful for the poems of Langston Hughes, the prose of Sandra Cisneros, the speeches of Sojourner Truth, the jokes of George Carlin and everything my students write!

Heather Starzynski, Board Member:
I am thankful for my third grade teacher, Ms. Daisy-Mae Meyer (seriously, that was her name! :)). She brought books into the classroom that I can still remember changing my life with regard to how one can get lost in another world with books like Boxcar Children and Little House on the Prairie.  I’m also thankful for the amazing experience I’ve had as a tutor, learning about the struggles and stunning resilience of the woman with whom I worked.

Nancy Clay, Instructional Specialist:
I am thankful for a professor of American Lit at San Francisco State who would get so involved and excited about discussing a book that he would literally run around the room as he led the discussion, embrace students who said ‘brilliant’ things and write on the walls or board or door or whatever with chalk as he was too focused to realize where he was standing. It was during a discussion of Moby Dick that I first said something ‘brilliant’ and fell even more in love with reading than I had thought was possible.

Kim Rogers, Operations Manager:
I am thankful for all of my teachers/professors who pushed me to be my best and always go above and beyond.

Dana Moriarty, Board Member:
I am so thankful for my luminous mother who instilled in me the joy of reading through “Charlotte’s Web”,”The Wind in the Willows”, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”, and “Fear of Flying”! My joy has multiplied with my son, reading “Goodnight Moon”, “The Night Kitchen”, ALL the Harry Potter books… to today, discussing Franzen, Sedaris, Diaz and more.


Leave a comment

November 26, 2015 · 8:02 am

How to Build a Better Book Club: Member Mix Keeps It Lively

As avid readers and literacy fans, most of us have belonged or do belong to a book club – at least one! We wondered, what makes a book club succeed? Wine or martinis? Appetizers and desserts? In homes or libraries? Daytime or nighttime?

“My book club would be held on Sunday afternoons. Dress code: warm-weather black tie.  Cocktails from 3 to 3:30. Chitchat from 3:30 to 4. Personal drama from 4 to 5. Book discussion from 5 to 5:30. Early dinner from 5:30 to 7. Then everyone goes home,” muses Mindy Kaling, star of sitcom “The Mindy Project” and author of a bestselling memoir, Why Not Me?

Members of the local reading group The Blue Dot Book Club pose together.

Members of the local reading group The Blue Dot Book Club pose together.

Book clubs indeed are based on as many approaches as there are kinds of books. In an article from Johnson County magazine, April 2015, the writer found more than 100 public library-sponsored book club meetings in the Greater Kansas City area. This Friday, for example, a book group with the name of our very own blog – “Between the Lines” – will meet at noon at the Westport Branch of the KC Public Library for a discussion of its monthly book selection. Another of our partners, The Mid-Continent Public Library, holds numerous monthly book groups at its various branches, for genres ranging from mystery to genealogy to “fiction addiction.”

Rainy Day Books holds occasional book clubs at its store in Fairway, KS, in connection with author appearances. This week, for example, author Susan Elia Macneal discussed her newest Maggie Hope Mystery, Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante with the Rainy Day Books Mystery Club.

In a short survey of Literacy KC’s most ardent supporters – the hardworking, generous volunteer members of our Board of Directors – results showed that the most important factor of a successful book club is — the people. The best book clubbers are those who are congenial and willing to read selected books. Book club hosts, usually the ones charged with making the meeting’s book selection, are most effective when they match the right books to their participants. Motivating people to participate – to actually read the book and be prepared to discuss it – is critical. This job is a lot easier with engaging individuals who really enjoy a variety of books and are open to discussing any topic of any particular book, no matter how controversial.

The drive behind getting together on a monthly or bi-monthly basis is key. At its most basic, members need to enjoy meeting and talking with each other. Being committed to the group really helps, too. It’s just not much fun when you’ve made a fabulous apple tartine and only two clubbers show up to ooh and aah! Not to mention what repeated low turnouts could do to club morale. The right mix of members can keep the club lively. One suggested approach is to mix male and female readers, not necessarily couples, but of similar ages. Add craft beer to a Fifty Shades of Grey sequel discussion and who knows!

A book club’s size can be tricky. It’s exciting to keep adding members, but grow too large and some people may be less eager to contribute comments. Somewhere between 6 and 10 is ideal for comfort and also makes home-hosting a less daunting task. Above all, members who have some common linkages, but also offer diverse opinions, can make a book club an event on your calendar worth anticipating.

Now, get busy and read next meeting’s book!


Kansas City Public Library

Mid-Continent Public Library

Rainy Day Books

Johnson County Lifestyle

Leave a comment

Filed under Power of Reading, Uncategorized

Family Reading Days Have Begun: Bringing Multiple Generations Together for the Joy of Reading

by Lindsey Clark, AmeriCorps VISTA, Family Reading Program Coordinator

What’s your biggest dream? It’s a loaded question.

As I sat in Literacy Kansas City Instructor Sarah Bell’s Ticket to Read class yesterday, I noticed that a lot of the students thought so, too. “What’s your biggest dream?” she asked again. At my student table, we dreamed of having a huge kitchen, big enough to cook for however many people we wanted. We talked about family, and providing for the ones we love, whether it be taking our grandchildren on a trip (to somewhere warm, of course) or being able to support our parents and children. After about 10 minutes, Sarah asked the class to share their biggest dreams and heard the following:

A Literacy KC Family Reading Day was held at Woodland Elementary October 13 for about 30 children and adults. Clare Hollander, a librarian from the Kansas City Public Library, led the event.

A Literacy KC Family Reading Day was held at Woodland Elementary October 13 for about 30 children and adults. Clare Hollander, a librarian from the Kansas City Public Library, led the event.

“To win the Powerball!”

“To get married and have kids.”

“To get my GED, and own my own house. That’s been my dream for 20 years.”

I looked around the classroom; every single student was smiling. It’s moments like this that remind me how important Literacy KC is, and how our classes pay a huge role in our student’s success. As for me? My biggest dream is to help as many people as I can, whether it be to advocate for them, teach them, or even just listen to them and show that I care. That’s the reason I applied to be an AmeriCorps VISTA and became the Family Reading Program Coordinator at Literacy KC.

For the past year and a half, the Family Reading Program has had two main components: Adult Education and Family Literacy. Recently, we’ve noticed is that the adult education class we offered was becoming very similar to our adult literacy Ticket to Read classes. As a result, for the first time ever, we are now offering Family Reading Days only. Family Reading Days occur biweekly or monthly (depending on the site) and are an interactive story time for ALL members of the family. A librarian typically reads 3-4 stories, sings songs, leads a literacy related craft or activity, and then every child gets to leave with a brand new book!

This kind of parent/child event has been very popular and successful in schools, so we are offering ours outside of the Kansas City Public School district: in community centers, apartment complexes, and transitional housing locations, or shelters.

In a 2014 study, the University of North Carolina found that “the size of a home library is the most important influence on a child’s reading performance in 42 nations, followed by the parents’ occupational status, then parents’ education status” (Evans, Kelley, Sikora, 2014). We hope that through the Family Reading Days program, we will be able to give out hundreds of children’s books, as well as give parents the knowledge, resources, and tools to be able to read with their children effectively. I’m very excited about the future of the Family Reading Program, and hope that through our recent change, we can begin to break the cycle of intergenerational illiteracy. When these families are asked, “What is your biggest dream?” it is my hope that they are as inspired as are our Ticket to Read students, and can see that literacy is the most important skill to help them reach their dreams and those of their children.

Leave a comment

Filed under For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Power of Reading, Programs & Services, Understanding the Need