Instilling a Love for Reading in Kernersville Children

By Bruce Boyer

Reading isn’t just about being who you want to be in the story, but about teaching you how to be who you want to be in real life. (quote from Love to Know website)

Young children are “priority #1” for the Kiwanis Club of Kernersville. Known for hosting major community children’s events, the Kiwanis Club has broadened its focus to incorporating a literacy initiative in all they do. During the past school year, the Kiwanis Club has added the free distribution of children’s books at their community events and created an additional partnership with area elementary schools.

Last school year, Kernersville Elementary School proved to be a successful pilot project for putting reading books in the hands of students. Kiwanis volunteers constructed and placed a bookcase near the Kernersville Elementary School library. A ribbon cutting was conducted in January 2023. The school’s librarian recommended titles that students would want to read and keep as their own. Students of all grade levels were nominated by their teachers as an incentive for positive classroom behavior and attitude. Students also selected books if they were recognized by the school as a HERO – which stands for Here, Everyday, Ready, and On Time. The Kiwanis Club of Kernersville donated the books.

The Kiwanis Club is replicating the bookcase project at other Kernersville elementary schools. A literacy bookcase will be placed at Union Cross Elementary School by September 1, and Smith Farm Elementary School is the next school to receive a bookcase. The Kiwanis Club plans to place and stock bookcases at all area Title I schools by the end of the new school year. The criteria for students to receive books is at the discretion of each school so that Kiwanis supports school initiatives.

The Kiwanis Club of Kernersville has received a national grant from Reading is Fundamental (RIF), which helps with the cost of the books. The grant allows books to be distributed to any child in the community, and especially is interested in helping students at low performing schools discover “the magic of books.” A goal of RIF is for children to “see themselves” in the stories, so the range of books offered features all minorities and walks of life and includes titles in Spanish. The Kiwanis Club’s book distribution plan insures low-income children will have the same opportunities as the general public. A motto of the Reading is Fundamental organization is, “Read Today. Be a Leader Tomorrow.”

Kiwanis has a goal of making books available to students at Title I schools, but also for the general youth population of the community. Book selection tents were set up at the Miss Mary’s Children’s Parade and the 2023 Touch-a-Truck event. Both events were well attended. Children could select a free book of their interest. Kiwanis overstocked the number of books so that even the last child in line would have their choice of books. Plans are also in the works for the Kiwanis Club to offer a free children’s book to the masses of kids attending Kernersville’s Downtown Trick or Treat, held on October 31.

The Kiwanis Club also partners with other local organizations. Elementary-age children at the YMCA summer day camp selected a book the final week of the summer as the students prepare for the beginning of the school year. Each of the past two summers, the Kiwanis Club also offered children’s books at the “pop-up day camps” held in low-income neighborhoods. The “pop-up day camps” provided recreational activities, a free lunch by The Crossing Church, and an opportunity to select a reading book. Several Kiwanis Club members stepped up last school year to contribute to a Donor’s Choose project at Piney Grove Elementary School so that the school could provide books written in Spanish to their ESL students. The school’s goal was to encourage children to read at home with their families. Kiwanis also supports the Chamber of Commerce education grants, which often help fund reading projects in Kernersville schools. Blood donors at the Kiwanis-sponsored September 6th Red Cross blood drive can select a book for their child. 

Improving youth literacy is a passion of the Kiwanis Literacy chairperson, Fran Little. She said, “Reading inspires a lifetime of learning. Once you learn to read, you’ll learn every time you read.” She noted that improved reading skills enhances a child’s academic performance and sets them up for success for the rest of their lives.

Youth literacy is an objective of the Kiwanis Club. As the club expands its book distribution and school partnerships, it is essential to grow its membership and volunteer base. Currently, the club has 34 members and growing. Kiwanis welcomes other adults in the community committed to programs for area children and the literacy project. The Kiwanis Club meets for lunch at Giadas Trattoria, 210 North Main Street, every Wednesday. The club is ideal for busy people who can only occasionally attend but are committed to the cause. For more information, contact incoming Kiwanis President Tacy Burdette (336-817-2142) or the club’s Literacy Chair, Fran Little (336-413-8892).

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