Category Archives: Power of Reading

8 Ways To Get Children Interested In Reading

1.Begin reading to your child from Day 1! Even if they are unable to comprehend the story, your child will appreciate the comforting voice of a parent as you read to them.


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2.Show your child your personal interest in reading! As a parent and a role model, your enthusiasm with reading is contagious. If reading is presented in a positive way, they will likely gravitate to it.


3.Make reading a family bonding activity! Set time aside to sit down with your child and connect with a book together.


4.Help them to stay engaged: If your child reads a book and develops a real connection to it, consider getting them to read other books in that genre or by that author!



5.Identify instances where reading is necessary in everyday life: show your child how the text relates to them. For example, being able to read a receipt from the grocery store.


6.Create a vocabulary list: This can be done by asking your child to write out words he or she does not quite know the definition of on a separate piece of paper. Then, you can look up the words one by one together.


7.Incorporate technology! You can use computers, tablets, or even smart phones to show your child a short story or poem. This will give them a way to read other than by strictly using print materials.



8.Go to your local library: the library can be a great resource for finding new books that will keep your child excited about reading. In the Kansas City area, the Mid-Continent Public Library & Kansas City Public Library systems are great resources.



Literacy KC’s Let’s Read: Family Reading Program empowers parents and caregivers to take an active role in the education of their children, while improving their own literacy skills. Literacy tends to be inter-generational, so this multi-generational approach helps to break that cycle.

Caregivers and children attend one-hour sessions at convenient community locations throughout Kansas City. Each lesson centers on a theme like Play, Laugh, or Sing, and at the end of the hour, each family leaves with a new reading strategy, a new book, and an increased appreciation for reading together.

To tutor, become a student, or for further information, contact:

Lindsey Clark
Family Reading Program Coordinator
816-333-9332 x. 112

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Filed under For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Power of Reading, Programs & Services, Uncategorized

Literacy Links to Civic Participation

It seems that at least 23 of the 24-hour-news-cycle hours are currently dedicated to political races, disgraces, and other early signs of an election year.  So, you may ask: “What does all this noise have to do with our national problem of illiteracy?”

Quite a lot.

Voting is an important right that all citizens 18 and older are granted. While citizens should always exercise their right to vote, no matter what level of government the election is for, this is an especially important year because of the presidential election. Presidential caucuses for Kansas Republicans and Democrats are on March 5. Missouri presidential preference primaries for all parties are on March 15. There are many differences in the rules for each event, but all have one thing in common. You may not participate unless you are a currently registered voter.  Thanks to our 21st-century technological advances, you can go online to register to vote, or to access a paper copy to mail to your election authority. If you haven’t filled out your voter registration form yet, or even if you already have, take a look at the websites and read through the forms: or or

One thing you’ll notice is that they are wordy. And they are worded in ways that can be hard to decipher. For individuals who are low literate, forms like these are a real challenge. If you know your history, you know that literacy tests were used in 20th century America to deliberately disenfranchise and deter particular voters—descendants of slaves, poor people of all colors, immigrants. Assuming there is no longer such intent, today’s voter registration forms have the same unfortunate result for the hundreds of thousands of good citizens who struggle with low literacy. And in our 21st century society, there is the additional barrier of finding and accessing these forms online. A convenience for many of us, but not for individuals who either don’t have digital access, or may not have the knowledge to navigate to the appropriate websites.

sample ballot

Ballots can be complicated, wordy, and intimidating.

At Literacy KC, many of our students are actively involved and deeply connected to their communities. They are caregivers for family and friends, they lead Bible studies at their churches, they are leaders at work. But not all of our students may be registered voters because they lack the digital and literacy skills to fill out the appropriate forms.

Our classes help our students achieve their personal goals, but we also help them grow in confidence and strengthen their literacy skills so they can become active citizens, exercise their right to vote, and have a voice in our democratic process.



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Filed under For Students, For Volunteers, In The News, Power of Reading, Understanding the Need

The Real Value of Adult Literacy

One in five American adults cannot access or use the Internet.

So why does it matter anyway if more adults are literate?

This year, we will be looking at ways that our great KC can be even better with more of our city’s adults reading, writing, being hired for family-supporting jobs, becoming leaders in their churches, volunteering at their children’s schools, voting, paying taxes, and overall being more community involved. Future posts will include interviews with employment agencies, major companies, schools and colleges, hospitals, and civic leaders about how adult literacy impacts their efforts in Kansas City.

Nationwide, 36 million adults can’t read better than the average 3rd grader.

Without basic reading, writing, math, and computer skills these Americans are struggling to find jobs, stay healthy, and support their families. Current financial resources, according to the ProLiteracy organization, help only 3 million of these adults to improve their futures and the communities around them.

It’s the Economy

The dire situation affects the entire nation. Low literacy hurts the economy by limiting demand for products and stunting job creation. Low literate adults are also twice as likely to be out of work – raising the high rate of unemployment even higher.

Rising Health Costs

Patients with low literacy skills have a 50 percent increased risk of hospitalization.

Not being able to read can actually be a life or death situation. Nearly half of American adults have difficulty understanding and using health information, according to the Center for Healthcare Strategies, making it difficult to maintain good health.

The Digital Literacy Divide

One in five American adults cannot access or use the Internet. Those without a high school education are among the least likely to have access.

At Literacy KC in 2015, in our Ticket to Read program alone, 256 students participated in twice weekly instruction in reading, writing, basic computer skills, and math. Of that number, 49 students were hired for a new job and 37 received a raise at their current job. In addition, 186 sent their first email and 68 attended a child’s school event. Greater productivity, mitigated under- or unemployment, and increased family attention on education: How can that not help us all?

ProLiteracy: the US Crisis
The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies
Pew Internet and American Life Project
ProLiteracy Member Statistical Report
The National Assessment of Adult Literacy (Department of Education)

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Filed under Power of Reading, Uncategorized, Understanding the Need

2015: A Momentous Year for Literacy Kansas City: A Letter from the Executive Director and a Photo Essay of the Year in Review

A Note from the Executive Director

As I reflect and look back on this last year, my question for you is, how much do you really know about what Literacy Kansas City is doing these days? So much has changed around here that if it’s been more than a year or so since you’ve visited us, you might think you’ve come to an entirely different organization!

The most exciting change brought by 2015 was our new Ticket to Read service delivery model. We absolutely transformed the way we reach and teach our students, and the best part of all? It’s working. Better than we ever dreamed.

Those of you who know me well know that in order to illustrate how well things have been going, my instinct would be to tell you the hard facts…

Things like:

  • The total number of students who participated in our Ticket to Read program alone in 2015 was 256!
  • 186 students sent their first email.
  • 64 students purchased their first computer or laptop.
  • 105 students completed an online form, like a job application.
  • 191 students participated in digital life skills classes and gained Internet skills.
  • 60 students got their first library card.
  • 164 visited a library.
  • 19 students wrote their first resume.
  • 37 students got a raise.
  • 49 students got a new job.
  • 76 helped a child with homework.
  • 110 students read to a child.
  • 68 attended a child’s school event.
  • 39 joined their child’s PTO/PTA.

One of the most challenging aspects of adult literacy instruction is encouraging students to persist in their attendance. Literacy Kansas City is making strides in this area, as well, as evidenced by student persistence and retention measures:

Students, instructors, and tutors have achieved over 7000 hours of instruction.

And, perhaps most remarkable of all, Term 3’s Ticket to Read program achieved an astounding 91% retention rate! Meaning more than 9 out of 10 students who started Term 3 finished Term 3 successfully. That is an unheard of statistic in adult literacy education practices.  

So, like I said, I could tell you all sorts of hard facts and type until my keyboard is worn and revolting about the things we know regarding our first year of instruction under this new model.

But right now, maybe it’s the time of year and I’m feeling extra sentimental. Maybe it’s all the unrest and political divisiveness happening in our country. Maybe it’s the violence and controversy around us. Maybe my two little boys are turning this momma into a softie.

Whatever it is, I don’t really want to talk about what we know. Instead, I’d like to talk about how it feels to be a part of Literacy KC. Every day, I come to work and see yet another example of the community we’ve been working toward, the feeling of inclusion, of safety, of belonging, that each staff member, each volunteer, each supporter is investing in and helping us to build. And it is through describing these things that I see each day that I hope you will also start to feel what I mean.

Throughout the last year, I’ve seen:

  • Students spending extra hours in the computer lab at Computer Happy Hour learning new skills- and this stuff isn’t even homework!
  • Students who have particularly bad days come here to get help because it’s a safe place full of people they trust, and they know at the very least they will get a smile and a place to rest their weary feet for a few minutes
  • Students, instructors, and tutors working together in classrooms- people from all walks of life whose paths may never have crossed otherwise- sitting close, shoulders touching, heads bent over a passage or book, writing, reading, and discovering together.
  • A big shot lawyer and a big shot pastor having lunch together to brainstorm ideas on how their congregation can help support the work we’re doing here.
  • Students becoming volunteers- spending extra hours at the office helping with projects because they, too, want to contribute and give back.
  • A group of volunteers, staff, and community members meeting to organize a system for students to get help with emergencies.
  • Partner sites excited to give us space, use of equipment, and the help of staff to support our programs for free, because they believe in what we’re doing.
  • Students continually asking after the well-being of staff members or volunteers who have run into health issues and are absent from work or class.
  • Instructors spontaneously working together with other instructors, staff, or volunteers, excited about yet another discovery.
  • Experts in the field of adult teaching offering time, training, and supplies for free to help us achieve the best approach to teaching possible.
  • Staff working beyond their normal hours to help other staff members with homework or special projects.
  • Students volunteering to read a creative piece or speak about their experiences at very public events, helping us allow students to become our spokespeople and public advocates for the work we do here.
  • Students making sure their friends are getting to class, picking each other up from home, even helping each other out with projects in their homes. In other words, our students are becoming friends and, some would say, even family.

I could go on and on. But because you may be ready to re-join your family’s holiday celebration or go indulge in another slice of pie or another glass of bubbly, I will stop there.

But I do want to share one last thing. I had the good fortune to hear a speech and take part in a workshop on cultural competency and inclusion given by Brigette Rouson, a long-time advocate and activist for social justice. In her speech, she quoted Dr. Cornell West who says, “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

And when we get down to it, isn’t that what we do here? I like to interpret our nonprofit work as justice work, as just, meaning it is making available the services and opportunities that everyone inherently deserves.

And hidden in all those examples of work and effort and learning I listed above is a shared experience, a sense of humanity, good will, justice, and recognition of our own inherent worth. In other words, everyone deserves this- a safe place to explore, to discover, to learn. Everyone.

At times like this, when things are crazy in the world and in our country, I like to think of that Fred Rogers quote. Fred Rogers, AKA Mr. Rogers. You know him- the one with the slippers, cardigan, and puppet friends who make up the most incredible neighborhood.

Anyhow, Mr. Rogers has talked about how his mother would always tell him in times of unrest, uncertainty, or violence: “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

And that’s just it. That’s what this year has been like for me. I’m surrounded by the helpers: Instructors helping students. Supporters helping the organization. Experts helping our instruction. Tutors helping instructors. Staff helping each other. Students helping staff. Volunteers helping everyone. Students helping each other.

We all need help, and we’re all fortunate to be in a community that gives – and receives – help freely, without shame, without a sense of entitlement or charity. But because it’s right. And I think it’s an incredible- if somewhat unintentional- side effect of our new classroom and community model. And it’s because we work so hard to build a community here, to collaborate with students in the learning process, to create a place of shared experience, of team mentality, of “we’re all in this together, so let’s help each other out”, that our success is inevitable. And this coming year is one of opportunity, of growth, of accomplishment, of love.

So thank you. And congratulations to our students on such a wonderful achievement. Keep going. We’re here to help, and thank you for your help. And thank you for letting me be a part of it.

Gillian Helm, Executive Director and grateful Literacy KC groupie

The Year 2015 in Pictures



Kim Rogers, Sarah Bell, Emily Hane, Love Letters

Staff members Kim Rogers, Sarah Bell and Emily Hane enjoying self decorated cookies at Love Letters.

Price Horn, James Carlile, Deborah Roach, Suzie Kemper - UMB Winning Spelling Team

Literacy Kansas City’s 21st Annual Spelling Bee Winners – UMB – Price Horn, James Carlile, Deborah Roach, Suzie Kemper

Will (New VISTA), Rachel Henderson, Robert Day, Emily Hane and Carrie Coogan

Staff members take on a Day at the Zoo.

April Grant and mom, Zoo Day

Student April Grant and her mother at Literacy Kansas City’s Day at the Zoo

Patrice Gonzalez, Becky Holst, Dana Moriarty, Kim Rogers - Outreach Day 20150724

Former VISTA Patrice Gonzalez, Board member Dana Moriarty, Instructor Becky Holst and staff member Kim Rogers with a Little Free Library during Literacy Kansas City’s Student Outreach Day.

Midnight in Paris

Literacy Kansas City supporters enjoying the 2nd Annual Gourmet Dinner – Midnight in Paris.

Lynn O'Connell, Haley Box, Rachel Cash, Gourmet Dinner

Mary Jo Saviano, Board President Lynne O’Connell, staff members Haley Box and Rachel Cash enjoying a Midnight in Paris, Gourmet Dinner.

Dave Mullins, Charlie Vitale, Fred Lewis, Windell Lamb

Volunteers Dave Mullins and Charlie Vitale with students Windell Lamb and Fred Lewis at the Term 2 Student Celebration

Victoria Estes, Raymond Woodson, Student Celebration

Student Victoria Estes and guest with student Raymond Woodson at Term 2 Student Celebration,

Carrie and Peggy accepting check, UMB Big Bash

Former Literacy KC Executive Director, Carrie Coogan, and former student, Peggy Shannon, accept the UMB Big Bash award.

Bride and groom, Wedding

Brent and Ella Rogers saying their vows at their Love, Charity, Rock and Roll Wedding

Gillian Helm, Literacy for All Luncheon

Executive Director Gillian Helm at the Literacy for All Luncheon.

Will Orlowski, Shirley Lewis, Literacy for All Luncheon

VISTA Will Orlowski and student Shirley Lewis at the Literacy for All Luncheon.

Sherrian Robinson, Literacy for All Luncheon

Student Sherrian Robinson speaking at the Literacy for All Luncheon.

Charlotte Brown, Literacy for All Luncheon

Student Charlotte Brown preparing to arrive in style to the Literacy for All Luncheon. Special thanks to Pech Limousine for donating a Limousine for a couple of hours.

Sarah Bell and Elizabeth Nelson, TTR C2

Instructor Sarah Bell with student Elizabeth Nelson during a Term 3 class.

Henry Hurtado, Linda Marcusen, Maricruz Bazaldua, TTR C1

Students Henry Hurtado and Maricruz Bazaldua with tutor Linda Marcusen working hard during a Term 3 class.

Becky Holst and class, TTR A1

Instructor, Becky Holst (far left), and her Ticket to Read class

Henry Hurtado, New Computer, 11.6.15 2

Student Henry Hurtado enjoying his new computer.

Garrett Waters, Mary Thornton, Fred Lewis, Writers for Readers

Students Garrett Waters, Mary Thornton and Fred Lewis reading at the Inaugural Writers for Readers event.

Gillian Helm, Writers for Readers

Executive Director, Gillian Helm speaking at Writers for Readers.

Bol Wajak, Student Celebration 20151209

Student Bol Wajak accepting his certificate at Term 3 Student Celebration.


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Filed under AmeriCorps VISTA, Community Partners, Corporate Spelling Bee, For Students, For Tutors, For Volunteers, Fundraisers, In The News, Power of Reading, Programs & Services, Special Events, Student Spotlight

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.

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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

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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.

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