Friday, October 23, 2015

Volunteers Read Across the Globe

Citgo volunteer with Sherwood Elementary students

Read Across the Globe at Sherwood Elementary - View video >>

Hundreds of business, school and faith-based volunteers read to more than 4,700 elementary students in Spring Branch ISD classrooms on Oct. 19 as part of Read Across the Globe, an ambitious effort to set a Guinness World Record in reading.

Read Across the Globe was supported by both the Points of Light and the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundations, as well as Volunteer Houston and Deloitte LLP. These groups network through Connect4Literacy and the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, too.

“I may not be able to give thousands of dollars to a good cause, but I can do this – I can read a book to schoolchildren,” said a beaming Grace Givens minutes before her passionate and engaged classroom reading at Bunker Hill Elementary School.

Givens, a Barbara Bush Literacy Committee member, recalls how her mother came to America from Lebanon. Learning to read English well helped her mom become a registered nurse and keep working during the Great Depression.

“My mom was a fantastic reader and a crossword-puzzle doer. In our family, it was all about words. We moved up, and we moved ahead because we could read. It isn’t possible to say how truly important it is to read and to read well,” Givens said.

Givens joined about a dozen adult volunteers in Bunker Hill’s school library to get librarian instructions before they read to second-graders as part of the Read Across the Globe record-breaking attempt.
Grace Givens, a Barbara Bush Literacy Committee member, reads to students at Bunker Hill Elementary.
Volunteers everywhere read the same book, “Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table,” written by Jaqueline Briggs Martin. They asked students about vegetables, ideas about growing a garden, cooking and favorite family meals.

“The students are excited. They are so excited,” librarian Tammy Holley said. “They have been practicing listening and their own listening skills.”

Elsewhere in SBISD, Sherwood Elementary’s Child Nutrition Services employees teamed up with supporting church and CITGO volunteers to place adult readers in 26 classrooms. At Spring Branch Elementary, students connected easily with their book topic – the elementary school supports its own small community garden.

In all, 26 SBISD elementary schools took part in the Read Across the Globe effort. Volunteers read to district students in nearly 270 classrooms on Monday. SBISD was one of nine announced public and private school systems to join the one-day campaign.

Read Across the Globe has goals of spotlighting literacy issues while engaging Houston-area residents in trying to smash a Guinness Book of World Record for the highest number of children read to in a 24-hour period.

The current record is 238,000 children read to in a single day. Volunteers took part in the scripted, 30-minute read-a-thon from the Texas Gulf Coast across more than a dozen time zones to South Korea and China.

Guinness has strict rules for record-keeping purposes: Volunteers had to read for a timed, half-hour period and their classroom readings had to be documented by cell phone photographs and/or video. Final results haven’t been announced yet.

Partners in SBISD included Deloitte, Seitel, Nexen, DeVry, UH-Downtown, CBS Radio, KSBJ Radio, Communities in Schools(CIS), Chapelwood and Memorial Drive United Methodist churches, John Knox and Memorial Drive Presbyterian churches.

At Bunker Hill, KSBJ Radio personality Jacob Ross Holloway, aka Johnny B, was joined by his wife, Alexis, who is expecting the couple’s first child soon. A Bunker Hill graduate, Holloway said the couple’s timing was perfect.

“We’re having our first [child] in three weeks. We both need practice in being the best readers we can possibly be,” he quipped.

Other Bunker Hill volunteers included the consulting firm Credera’s John Latham, Benjamin Armenta and Ashley Alston; Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo (HLSR) volunteers Raychel Anne Walker and Maryjo Alberto; and Bunker Hill parents Rebecca Howard, Jacquelin Jenvey, Susan Comey, Minda Caesar, Kristy Wall, Jennifer Johansson and Peggy Fisher.

Credera’s Ashley Alston, a middle school mentor, notes that reading ability is key to student achievement. “It always comes back to reading,” she says.

Maryjo Alberto, who taught language arts at Spring Oaks Middle for 35 years, said she found some middle school students had difficulty with the visualizing involved in understanding what they read, or what is read to them.

“A good student reader has a kind of movie going on in their head when they read passages, or a story, or even a book,” she said. “Reading is important during those early years.”

To learn more about Read Across the Globe, please visit:

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To learn more about volunteering in SBISD or supporting literacy initiatives, please contact:

Abby Walker
Coordinator for Strategic Partnerships and Volunteer Programs


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