Author visit program promotes self-esteem and coping skills

Children’s therapist and author Vladimir Sainte visits Academy for Integrated Arts as part of Lead to Read KC’s author visit program.

Lead to Read KC is pleased to partner with local children’s therapist and author Vladimir Sainte for a second year. The goal of our partnership, which includes author visits and sharing Vladimir’s books with our students and teaching partners, is to promote self-esteem and coping skills among students. 

Vladmir’s book It Will Be Okay brings a message of hope about overcoming bullying, anxiety and fear. Just Like a Hero teaches personal values and challenges negative thoughts.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our in-person author visit program is on pause. We’re sharing Vladimir’s important messages virtually.

Check out these new read-alouds and activities: 

Vladimir said this about his partnership with Lead to Read KC:

“As a therapist of color, it has been difficult finding inclusive children’s literature that focuses on emotional health. So, I decided to create my own book series that highlights it is okay to talk about mental health with children. I am excited to partner again with Lead to Read KC, a wonderful organization focused on building connections between our city’s youth and reading mentors, to share this message with their students.”  

Many thanks to the Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County for providing funding for this important program! We look forward to resuming in-person author visits when the time is right. 

Learn more:

Vladimir Sainte presents It Will Be Okay.
Children’s therapist and author Vladimir Sainte shares his book It Will Be Okay with Lead to Read KC students and Reading Mentors at Academy for Integrated Arts.
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Reading resources to keep kids reading every day

Due to COVID-19 school closures, forecasts suggest students will experience learning loss of approximately 30 percent of prior-year learning in reading*.

At Lead To Read KC, we are committed to helping students build a brighter future. To support our students, our team has created a new Reading Resources Page, including read-alouds, online ebooks, and app-based and audio books. 

Let’s keep kids reading every day! Check out our Reading Resource Page!

*Read the report: The COVID-19 slide: What summer learning loss can tell us about the potential impact of school closures on student academic achievement. 


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Tips for working with students who have experienced trauma

At Lead to Read KC’s Lunch & Learn event, Susan Pinne of TraumaSmart shares insights on how trauma affects student learning—and how to help students succeed.

Did you know that 83 percent of inner-city youth report experiencing one or more traumatic events? 

Here are some tips from our January 2020 Lunch & Learn presentation from Susan Pinné and the team from TraumaSmart for making a reading session a safe, supportive learning environment for your student: 

  • Ask “What may have happened to this child?” not “What is wrong with this child?”
  • Provide consistency:
    • Attend regularly.
    • Have a routine such as a special greeting or good-bye.
    • Read in the same location each week. 
    • Need to miss a session? Send a note to your student via your Site Coordinator. 
  • Offer options to help your student feel safe and have a sense of control. For example, ask “Would you like me to read first, or would you like to read first?” If the student is not willing to participate, simply reading aloud to them is always a good option. 
  • Praise specific successes to give your student a sense of accomplishment. For example: “You did a great job sounding out the three-syllable words today!”  
  • Ease transitions. Give a “time warning” when the session is nearly over, such as “We have about five minutes left.”  

Looking for more tips? Here are some videos recommended by the TraumaSmart team: 

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Volunteerism inspires multi-generational engagement

Michael Lee, a Hallmark artist, became a Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor at Longfellow Elementary in 2018. Michael’s daughter London was inspired by his volunteerism, and she too wanted to help students in our program. 

Together, they decided to use proceeds from Michael’s booth at the 2019 Hallmarket, the Hallmark art festival, to purchase books for Lead to Read KC students at Longfellow. Michael drew caricatures of attendees, and London, an eighth grader, helped staff the booth. The father-daughter team raised hundreds of dollars.

“This was such a great opportunity for me to work together with my daughter and do something fun for the kids at Longfellow Elementary. London and I were both on a mission to help get books into the hands of the kids that told entertaining stories that would capture their imagination and give them a lifelong love of reading. And don’t forget superhero comic books too!” Michael Lee, Reading Mentor 

Michael spoke with Ms. Bhakta, second grade teacher at Longfellow Elementary, to see what books her students would enjoy most in their classroom library. She suggested a variety of books—everything from classics by Dr. Seuss to “Say Something”, an empowering picture book published in 2019.

London and Michael went shopping and purchased dozens of books for the classroom libraries in both second grade classes. Michael delivered the books during a Lead to Read KC reading session. The students and teachers were thrilled to receive so many brand new books! 

“I am so grateful for Michael Lee and his daughter’s donation to Second Grade at Longfellow Elementary. I have struggled to find books that are of high interest and on level for my students; however, with this donation my kids are becoming active readers along with their Lead to Read Buddies! Thank You!” Priya Bhakta, Second Grade Teacher, Longfellow Elementary

Michael Lee shares the book donation with Lead to Read KC students at Longfellow Elementary.


Building community is an extension of building literacy. On behalf of Lead to Read KC and our students and teaching partners at Longfellow Elementary, many thanks to Michael and London!  

Want to learn how you can support Lead to Read KC’s program at one of our partner schools? Contact Pauly Hart. 

Want to become a Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor? Learn more.

Categories: Blog

How to Give Success this Giving Season

A child’s ability to read proficiently by third grade is a major predictor of high school success and life outcomes. Yet today in Kansas City, fewer than half of third graders are reading on grade levelYou can help! 

This giving season, please consider one of these four ways to Give Success by donating to Lead to Read KC:

  1. Employees often are able to double their personal donations through a matching gift program from their employer. Here are some companies we believe offer this benefit. Be sure to check with your employer. 
    • American Century Investments
    • Andrews McMeel Universal
    • AT&T
    • Black & Veatch
    • Burns & McDonnell
    • Chubb
    • Hallmark
    • Kauffman Foundation
    • Sprint
    • US Bank
    • VML

2. Become a sustaining donor, and Give Success all year-round: 

    • $15 a month helps sponsor a student for a year of one-to-one reading support and mentorship. 
    • $45 a month covers the cost of an author visit or end-of-year reading celebration at a school.
    • $100 a month supports program management, including volunteer management and our book give-away program.

3. Give what you can. Your donation in any amount is welcomed and appreciated.

4. Are you retired? Donate your required IRA distribution to Lead to Read KC. You can avoid income tax on your required withdrawal by donating it directly to Lead to Read KC. Read how here.

“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.”

—Joshua Shipp, Youth Advocate

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Readers on the Rooftop Happy Hour

Lead to Read KC supporters gather at WeWork Corrigan Station’s rooftop event space for our
Readers on the Rooftop happy hour.

Readers on the Rooftop was a great event—thank you! We’re grateful to: WeWork for donating the stunning event space; J. Rieger & Co., Manny’s Mexican Restaurant and signatureeventskc for providing awesome drinks and appetizers; Kansas City Life Insurance Company for the wonderful Kansas City Chiefs raffle prize; Friends of Lead to Read KC who helped organize the event—and to everyone who purchased raffle tickets and attended the sold-out event.

Special thanks to Gabe Ortiz for the fabulous event photography! Check out his photos below! You can reach Gabe at: [email protected] or 505.795.5301. 

The view from the WeWork Corrigan Station rooftop is stunning!

Give Success. Direct your United Way donation to Lead to Read KC.

A child’s ability to read proficiently by third grade is a major predictor of high school success and life outcomes. Yet today in Kansas City, only 45 percent of third graders are reading on grade level. In many of our urban core schools, it’s fewer than 25 percent. You can help!

Directing your United Way donation to Lead to Read KC will support our mission to improve third grade literacy by mobilizing community volunteers to read one-to-one with children. Here’s how to direct your donation:

  1. If you’re making a donation of $50 or more, you can direct all or part of your donation. If you’re using an online form, click the Donor Direct link. Or, ask the United Way campaign coordinator at your workplace for a Donor Direct form. 
  2. In the write-in section of the form, indicate you want to direct your donation to Lead to Read KC, and note the amount you want to direct. 
  3. Include Lead to Read KC’s mailing address: 6022 N. Strathbury Ave., Kansas City, MO 64151 AND Employer Identification Number (EIN) 82-1256215 on the form.  
  4. Submit your online form, or return your Donor Direct form to your workplace’s United Way campaign coordinator. Lead to Read KC will then receive your donation from United Way—thank you!

Thank you for considering supporting Lead to Read KC with your United Way donation. 

If you have questions about directing your donation, please contact Sarah Gaikwad: [email protected]

“Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” 

Joshua Shipp, Youth Advocate

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A little reading makes a big difference

Leah Giangregorio (Teacher at Hope Leadership Academy), J and Don Maxey (Reading Mentor)

Reading Mentor Don Maxey recently shared this story about his experience volunteering with Lead to Read KC: 

“Each Wednesday over my lunch break, I get to hang with my new buddy and friend J at Hope Leadership Academy. I help mentor J as his reading buddy through Lead to Read KC.  How lucky am I? I have never mentored as a reading buddy before, and to my delight I got paired up with J. 

In my life, I have not encountered a more fulfilling opportunity where I give such a short amount of time and am so richly rewarded. The true heroes are the teachers who work with these kids every day–but this is a chance to help support them in their mission, mentor a child, and make a new friend!” ~ Don Maxey, Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor from Hallmark 

Ms. Leah Giangregorio, J’s teacher at Hope Leadership Academy, shared this: 

“Each Wednesday, Mr. Don comes to read with J. Mr. Don was ready to jump in and help J in any way possible. It has been so refreshing watching their relationship grow every week. Before, J didn’t show much interest in school. Now, he loves coming to school on Wednesdays and loves when it’s time for Lead to Read KC. That’s all due to J’s time with Mr. Don. Mr. Don makes him feel like such an excellent reader and even shares his personal life with J, which makes J feel like they are best buddies. I am so thankful for reading mentors like Mr. Don who help make my job easier as a teacher.”        ~ Ms. Leah Giangregorio, First Grade Teacher, Hope Leadership Academy

Thank you to Mr. Don and Ms. Giangregorio for your dedication and for sharing this heartwarming story! 

Lead to Read KC volunteers are more than reading buddies. They are mentors, cheerleaders, and friends–caring, dependable adults in the lives of students.

Want to become a Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor? Learn more

Categories: Blog, Uncategorized

Student project shares kindness across state line

First Grade Teacher Amy Oades of Lakewood Elementary in the Blue Valley School District loves to read. Her students do, too. They also love to make cards, so they started a Kindness Cards business, making cards and selling them to people in their community.

The students raised $60 this year and wanted to use the money to share their love of literacy with the students Lead to Read KC serves:

When I knew we wanted to donate, I looked at many organizations around KC, but yours really spoke to me. First grade is all about reading, and we are lucky to have lots of books and support in our district,” said Amy Oades, First Grade Teacher at Lakewood Elementary.

Kindness cards created by Mrs. Oades’ first grade students.

Our hearts are full! On behalf of all the students Lead to Read KC serves, we would like to recognize Mrs. Oades and her students for giving back to the community. We’re thrilled they chose Lead to Read KC as the recipient of their donation, and we’re excited to be able to share the Kindness Cards with our students. Many thanks!

Lead to Read KC Reading Mentor John Eyler and his student receiving a Kindness Card at Citizens of the World Kansas City.
Kindness Cards logo.

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Spring Into Happy event

More than 200 Lead to Read KC supporters celebrated a great year of reading at Freedom Interiors’ fabulous showroom during our Spring Into Happy event. Thank you to all who attended!

Special thanks to our event sponsors: Amigoni Urban Winery, CBIZ, ConvergeOne, Freedom Interiors, The Hughes Family Foundation, Lockton, Price Chopper, US Cloud, and Vertafore. Also, thank you to Jazz for Good for providing the music.

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