Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’

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

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!

Leadership from Burns and McDonnell

imageIts always about leadership.  Two leaders who work at Burns and McDonnell, Doug Dietrich and Tom Anderson took the first step, engaging with some hungry readers in KC’s urban core with Lead to Read KC last school year.
Tom Anderson heard about Lead to Read at his church and he started reading at the Academy for Integrated Arts (AFIA).   Dietrich learned about Lead to Read while traveling from Boise Idaho to Kansas City on an airplane.  His destiny was to sit down beside Jean Rundle, founder of the program. The rest is history.   After getting the scoop from Jean he joined Tom at AFIA in the spring of 2013.

Their leadership paved the way for  this year’s  volunteers from Burns and McDonnell  to take on Lead to Read in a big way.  Sept 11,  over 60 potential readers heard the Lead to Read story  at Burns and McDonnell HQ in KC. Over 50 READERS will join the team and start reading at Boone Elementary in early October, 2013.  Thanks to Tom and Doug for leading the way.

Why Lead to Read?


Why Lead to Read?

We started Lead to Read because we believe the single most important issue facing Kansas City is that an alarming number of children are growing up in this city without the ability to read. The graduation rates at our local inner city high schools reflect this reality. The percentage of students who drop out of high school between the 9th and 10th grade reflect this reality. The challenges facing the neighborhoods across the city as a result of crimes committed by teenagers reflect this reality.


The reality is, if you are in the 9th grade, but can’t read at the 9th grade level, but are stuck at a 3rd or 4th grade reading level, you can’t advance to get that valuable high school degree, the ticket to meaningful employment and/or vocational training or a college degree.


What will change the game for Kansas City? Increasing the number of students who actually make it through high school and have an opportunity to become contributors. That’s a fact. With a massive engagement in Lead to Read from the community… we can change the game. Please join us in reading at a local elementary school near you.




Lynn and Jean Rundle




Business Adopts Lead to Read – by Jeff Oddo

In April of 2011 I invited Lynn and Jean Rundle to speak to City Wide Maintenance staff about the Lead to Read program, which was just completing its trial year. The first year trials had shown test score improvements in participating students, and the program was actively recruiting volunteers to participate for the next school year.

City Wide decided as a company to participate in Lead to Read because of its focus on service to our community – City Wide has operated in Kansas City for over 50 years – and its focus on creating future leaders. City Wide’s mission statement focuses on service to others: to our clients, our service providers, and our communities, as a means of encouraging strong business relationships.

Our company provided all the readers for one classroom for the 2011 school year. Our group of readers was drawn from all levels of the organization – administration to sales to executive level. Ten readers made the commitment to read every week.

Coordination and recruitment within our organization was relatively simple: many traveling employees and managers served as substitutes for regular readers. In this way, we were able to make sure the students saw the same pool of faces every week – indeed, many of our substitutes became as well-known as our regular readers.

After seeing strong results in test score improvement and positive feedback within the company, we have extended our participation into a second year, in the same classroom. Many of the readers are working with their second group of students, trading notes on reading styles and stories, and actively recruiting friends and colleagues to participate.

City Wide encourages a culture of entrepreneurship and leadership in all of our business relationships: the idea that an individual, with hard work, perseverance and strong community support, can build an enduring legacy business that gives back. That’s what my father did in 1961 when he founded City Wide.

Lead to Read helps students find the skills they need to become tomorrow’s business leaders. By exposing students to invaluable life-skills by example, and by showing students they are worthy of the volunteer’s time, the Lead to Read program builds confidence and social ability, and City Wide Maintenance is proud to give it our continuing support.


Reading Is Truly Fundamental by David Williams

With this being my 3rd year of participating in Lead to Read, I can’t help but smile thinking of the smiling young faces as we walk into the classrooms each week. But I also think about how the children’s reading abilities progress from the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year. I also think about some of the unfortunate stories, and the harsh realities of so many of the children’s home lives. Having grown up myself in the inner city of Kansas City Kansas, I thought I would easily be able to relate to their external environments. I found nothing was further from the truth. It seems that far too many children come from not broken, but shattered, homes. I listened to the story of the child that said he had to go to bed each night around 7:30 p.m., just so he had a spot on the bed. He said there would be up to 8 other children who had to sleep in that same room. He said if you were lucky you slept on the twin bed; if not, you slept on the floor. Another child said he virtually slept each night at a different home, depending on the day of the week.

Now don’t get me wrong, not all of their stories are so depressing, but again, far too many are. So as I sit here and look back on all those faces, the one thing that comes to mind is that all any of them want is to be noticed. They want us adults to show that we care. So for 30 minutes each week we, the volunteer Readers of “Lead to Read,” give them that personal attention. We show them we care, and by coming back week after week, we build trust. They feel special that their Reader is coming, just for them.

Having a 2nd grader myself and watching her reading skills develop, I take great satisfaction in knowing I can be a part of helping a child with not all the same advantages as mine, hopefully stand side by side with the same confidence as her, and to be able to go after the same job as her someday. Maybe someday these kids can speak to the generation after them about how they achieved success against all odds.

In order to achieve this, I revert to my title, “Reading is Truly Fundamental.” Too many of our children are told they are “the next great thing” when it involves sports. Parents will show up at a little league game, yet not show up at a parent-teacher conference. Maybe they are “the next great thing,” but if I can’t read a playbook, then what? How can I be a team player? If I can’t read a script or the words to a song, how can I get “the big part?” Now for the 99% who are just like you and I are, if I can’t read, how can I fill out the job application or create a resume?

So to those of you who have taken the time to invest an hour each week with Lead to Read, I say thank you. If you are already a part of Lead to Read, you know the smiling faces and the gratification I speak of. If you have taken the time to read this and you are not currently a part of Lead to Read, all I can say is there is a child out there who would love for you to show them you care!!!