The Latest from Read to a Child

Reading Adventures with Jonathan

By: Karen Kelley, CDMSmith employee and dedicated Read to a Child volunteer for seven years

CDM Smith has been participating in Read to a Child’s lunchtime reading program for eight years through our CDM Smith Cares program. Read to a Child pairs volunteer reading mentors from the business world with elementary school students to promote reading and literacy skills. Mentors and students read together over the child’s lunchtime for an hour each week. This is a really great opportunity for our employees to make the time to volunteer in the community, even though we have highly committed schedules outside of work. It is also possible to “share” a student so that the time commitment is only twice a month.

As a water resources engineer and a seven-year volunteer with this program, I can tell you that it is sometimes difficult to get away for an hour at lunch, but it’s always a good break and provides lots of inspiration when returning to work in the afternoon. The kids love the one-on-one interaction with their mentors. One of my students, Jonathan, an immigrant from Haiti with a past full of trauma from the earthquake in his homeland, was at first very timid and shy. But by the end of his first year in the program, he would get so intensely involved in the books that he practically ended up sitting in my lap. Over the next two years, he developed a growing fascination with animals, especially dinosaurs, which he would draw for me with life-like expressions while we read together. Plant-eaters were generally smiling, while the carnivores were fierce. We talked about what he would “be” when he grew up, and he said he wanted to become an illustrator. I tried to introduce fiction, but Jonathan was uninterested. All he wanted to know was facts about animals. One day, he wanted to read about spiders, so we asked the librarian for help in locating a book on them, but we soon found they were “too scary,” and we went back to reading about dinosaurs.

Jonathan challenged me with his questions about extinction and dinosaur bones, no doubt trying to understand some of the recent events in his own tumultuous life. At the end of our third year together, despite starting the program with a very limited English vocabulary, he had come so far in building his reading skills that he could pronounce all of the dinosaur names for me, even the newly discovered ones that I had never heard of, and he could tell me all about their eating habits and physical characteristics. Some dinosaurs had feathers! When I presented him with a wrapped book at the end of the program in the spring, I was amused when he wondered out loud what it would be about. He clutched the book to his chest in happiness and immediately started reading when he discovered it was – what else? – a children’s illustrated encyclopedia of dinosaurs.

When I look back at our time together, I realize he taught me every bit as much as I taught him. Participating makes me feel great about being a CDM Smith employee.

Here is a picture that Jonathon drew for me while we were reading about “silver-tooth” tigers (saber-tooth tigers). He insisted they were “silver-tooth” tigers.

Here is a picture that Jonathan drew for me while we were reading about “silver-tooth” tigers (saber-tooth tigers). He insisted they were “silver-tooth” tigers.

Why I Read to a Child

By: Derek Lisinski, dedicated Read to a Child volunteer since 2002

No matter what a child looks to do in life, literacy is extremely important. The lunchtime reading program engenders that love of reading, and a child will carry that with them throughout life.

For several years in the 1990’s, I volunteered at local schools in Cambridge and Somerville. However, in 2001 I moved out of the city and was interested in new volunteer opportunities that could fit my schedule while commuting from the suburbs.  As it happened, I spoke to a friend and she introduced me to Olivia Mathews – then the Executive Director of Everybody Wins Metro Boston, and now the CEO of Read to a Child.  I met with Olivia and was immediately captivated, not only by the mission of the organization to bring the joy of reading to children in need, but also the ability to do it during the normal course of my work week.

I started to volunteer at the Morse School in Cambridge and immediately read one of my favorites as a child, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.  My student had heard of the book but had never read it so I was happy to be able to introduce it to him. He seemed to love it as much as I did!  We had a great year together revisiting some books that I suggested, as well as some he was really excited about.

At the end of that school year, I was disappointed to hear that our office was moving from Cambridge to Bedford. I called Olivia to let her know that I would not be able to continue reading.  As it turned out, the program was also at a Billerica school just a few miles from my new office, so I was able to stay as a reader!  I started there in 2003 and I am now reading to my 3rd student and continuing to enjoy it every week. Not only is my student excited to see me, but I’m excited to take a break from my work week and spend some time losing myself in a book with him.

After reading for a few years, I was approached to be on the Boston Board, which I was very happy to do.  I saw how the program offered adults a simple and meaningful way to affect the life of a child and to be able to do so with a minimal time commitment.  I also see how children are able to draw on the excitement of their mentor and really get into the stories – they amazingly start to look forward to and seek out opportunities to read themselves!  I saw joining the Boston Board as a way to further support the organization and hopefully expand the program to many more students in the greater Boston area.  I was on the Board for six years and served as Chairman for part of that time.  I, along with the other dedicated members of the Board, were able to put together an expansion plan that – although I originally thought it was aggressive – was able to grow the program from 4 to 14 schools and from just a few hundred to nearly 1,000 students served.  I am extremely proud of my time on the Boston Board and that we were able to achieve this goal of bringing the joy of reading to so many children.

Every year I have participated in the lunchtime reading program, I have been able to see the benefits to the child and also feel that I am doing something very worthwhile and valuable.  I feel good about being a positive influence and I can do it all with just about an hour of my time per week.  With each child to whom I have read, I have seen that they gain more excitement and enjoyment from reading.  In speaking with their teachers and parents, I have also heard they are seeking out books to read on their own more than they did before they started in the program.  It is an unbelievable feeling to see that you can have an effect on someone so young – and hopefully put them in a position to be more successful as they move through school and life.  As each year ends, whether I am going to continue with the same student or I am starting with a new student, I look forward to the school year and the opportunity to be able to participate in and support this amazing program that does so much for children’s literacy.

If you would like to join me in supporting Read to a Child, Ticket Buttonplease consider attending Read to a Child’s 12th Annual Gala on Thursday, November 6th at the Boston Common Hotel!

Champion Spotlight: Bob Balaban

Read to a Child Friends & Family ‘Give Me $5’ digital fundraising campaign

Bob Balaban, Actor, Director and Producer

What is your favorite children’s book title?

‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie


I loved everything about the book. It was fun. And imaginative.  And adventurous.  And the theme of never growing up really appealed to me. I immediately started having flying dreams.  I still have them.  My mom read it to me.  She was a voracious reader.

What motivated you to support Read to a Child and the children’s literacy cause?

Before my daughter started pre-Kindergarten, my wife and I and the other parents had a meeting with the school guidance counselor.  She told us that the single most important thing we could do to help our children do well in school and in life was to read to them every day.  And to make sure that reading was a fun and friendly part of their lives.  She said it didn’t matter what kind of book it was and that establishing a happy reading routine early on was a critical factor in promoting children’s literacy.

Inspire Us!

I am a champion for Read to a Child personally because the mission is so important–reading can make a huge difference for children’s success in life.  I encourage you to “read to a child” – we want a world full of readers (and you get to go back to places like Never, Never Land).


Bob Balaban facebook image

A message from Chris Thomas, National Board Chair


As we begin our 5th day of the Read to a Child Friends and Family ‘Give Me $5’ fundraising campaign, I’d like to take a moment to put emphasis on the meaning of ‘friends and family’.

When I was asked to become Chairman of Read to a Child in 2013, I decided to do so as a result of my passion to address and tackle the causes of children’s illiteracy in America and Read to a Child’s unique approach to doing just that.

Since that time, I’ve been astonished by the outpouring of support, dedication and incredible efforts of you – our friends and family. Friends and family propel you, they rally around you, they support you, and they give you the tools to be a better version of yourself then you otherwise would be.  You have done all these things and more and though your continued personal and financial support I have no doubt we will continue to be successful and achieve great heights with you, our friends and family, by our side.

On behalf of Read to a Child, I’d like to extend a very warm and sincere ‘Thank You’ to our friends and family.  Your efforts are truly appreciated.

Chris Thomas
Read to a Child

Read to a Child launches ‘Give Me $5’ Today!

By: Olivia Mathews, CEO of Read to a Child

“I can’t express how excited I am to announce that TODAY, we kick off our very first digital fundraising campaign for Friends and Family called ‘Give Me $5’! Read to a Child will be going for a big goal – $50,000 – in one month! Can we do it? Yes, I believe we can!

My seven-year-old daughter Torey set up a lemonade stand to help kickoff the campaign. Torey’s ‘Lemon-Aid’ raised $3 and she was proud to make the donation to help other children. I got to thinking more about the $3 and how it symbolizes the power of just one person! We need more Toreys! So I invite you to join our campaign today by signing up to raise $100 for the cause. And if you can’t join us in fundraising, you could generously ‘Give Me $5’ here or at Torey’s fundraising page here:

A BIG thank you to everyone for your effort and support! I look forward to seeing the results of the campaign.”


Read to a Child is hosting its first digital fundraising campaign for Friends and Family called ‘Give Me $5’ and we invite you to join the cause, August 1 – 31, 2014!


You can join by signing up here
For more information campaign details click here
Or to generously ‘Give Us $5’ donation, please click here

10th Annual Los Angeles for Literacy Benefit and Spelling Bee

By: Alex Fey, Read to a Child’s Los Angeles Executive Director

On behalf of the Read to a Child Los Angeles Regional Board, I want to express my thanks for joining or supporting us last Thursday evening at the 10th Annual Los Angeles for Literacy Benefit and Adult Spelling Bee at the ACE Hotel.

We were proud to be able to showcase the power of lunchtime reading through the moving words of children in the program. We hope you had fun being part of our unique adult spelling bee! Congratulations to Lee Tran & Liang Attorneys for your big win!

Thank you for your continued support of Read to a Child’s work in Los Angeles. It is always a pleasure to bring people together for celebratory occasions such as these.

We invite you to check out and like our  Facebook page to check out some photos from the event and find out what Read to a Child is doing across the country! We hope you will also consider getting more involved; please reach out to me to explore ideas.
We would like to extend a special thanks to the generous Corporate Sponsors and Corporate Reading Partner volunteers who supported this event: AEG & Staples Center Foundation, Alston & Bird, Capital Group, DIRECTV, Ernst & Young, Gersh/Derby LLP, Innovation Capital, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, LTL Attorneys, McKool Smith, Newport Trial Group, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Fun 4 Events, Disney VoluntEARS, DJ Alex Ink,Maeghan Magante, and our generous silent auction donors.

A very special thank you to Rob Fukuzaki, ABC7 News, Marshall Tuck, and Joelle James.

We would also like to express our deepest appreciation to Ralina Shaw, Ralina Shaw Public Relations, for contributing countless hours producing this year’s memorable event.

Thank you all for your continued support of Read to a Child in Los Angeles.

spelling beeTwo Spelling BEE contestants who are Read to a Child volunteers from Ernst & Young!

You can support us every time you shop Amazon!

Next time you have something to buy on Amazon, use this link

Log in using your usual account info, select us as your charity of choice and every time you shop on Amazon, .5% of your purchase will be donated to Read to a Child!

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$50,000 Fundraising Goal with Friends & Family ‘Give Me $5’ Campaign Launch!


Read to a Child is excited to announce its first digital fundraising campaign for our Friends and Family called ‘Give Me $5’ and we invite you to join the cause, August 1 – 31, 2014!

83% of 4th graders from low-income families are not proficient in reading.

Volunteer reading mentors give their student partners the time, confidence and tools to reverse the cycle of illiteracy.   By fundraising $50,000 in one month, we can provide 3,000 additional reading sessions to children in need!

The Give Me $5 campaign makes it easy for anyone to support the cause with our ‘Give Me $5’ ask – donations in increments of $5 making it most affordable to give and to fundraise.

It’s easy to join the campaign!

– Sign up as a champion to fundraise a goal of $100 in one month online!  That’s just 20 friends and family donating $5 each to reach the goal!
– Recruit your friends and family to join us in fundraising.  We need all the champions we can find to help us hit our goal!
– Go Live with Give Me $5! Simply change your profile photos and covers to our campaign banners!  Download the campaign banners

Win prizes! 

Prizes will be awarded to the top 5 champion fundraisers and the top 3 champions who recruit the most volunteers to join the campaign!  For updates on progress and who is in the lead for fundraising, visit our Facebook page at:

Top fundraisers will be announced on Tuesday September 2nd, 2014.  * A minimum $100 fundraising goal must be met by your referred champion recruits by end of campaign for qualification.  You can email the names of your recruits to Amelie Ansari at:

Donors win too! In appreciation of everyone that makes a donation through the First Giving fundraising site or at the Read to a Child website, will be automatically entered into our prize drawings for books and cool prizes as well!  Winners will be announced daily (a total of 25!) on our Facebook page at:

For more information please see our campaign details.

Or to generously ‘Give Us $5’ donation, please click here.

For more information or questions on the Read to a Child Friends & Family ‘Give Me $5’ campaign, please contact:  Amelie Ansari at:


Why we read TO a child, not the other way around

By: Amy Blakemore, Volunteer Outreach Coordinator, & Kaela Vronsky, Vice President of Program Management

One of the most common questions we receive from volunteers is “Why can’t our students read to us?” Like our volunteers, we are thrilled when students ask to read to their mentor, so why do we insist that our mentors continue reading to their student, and not the other way around? We recognize the great merit in encouraging students to read independently, but we know that the limited time our mentors have with students is best used reading aloud to them.  Here are the top three reasons why:

1) When mentors select books that are just above a child’s reading level, they are exposed to new, more complex vocabulary, text structures, and informational content.
2) When mentors read, they can manage the pace (thus often fitting in more content), guide more stimulating discussions, and interact with the text.
3) Reading aloud to children allows them to enjoy the book without having to work for it, instilling a love of stories and inspiring them to read on their own.

In order to foster the best lunchtime reading experience possible, keep this simple check in mind: if the book you are reading to your student is easy enough for them to read to you, then you know it’s time to pick a more advanced book. Use your School Coordinator as a literary resource in finding new book selections as you and your student explore new worlds in text!

Three Years of Lunch with Julianna

By: Robyn Tice, Boston Regional Board Member

Let’s face it, we’re all busy. But I’ve been a reading mentor for 4 years, the last 3 with Julianna at the Samuel Adams Elementary School in East Boston.  My employer, Eaton Vance, is a supporter of Read to a Child, which is how I first learned about this wonderful program.  I was initially intrigued by the impact reading aloud to children has on increasing their literacy skills and their future success.

But, let’s be real, I was also interested in what could be in the program for me. I don’t have my own children, I enjoy spending time with my friends’ kids, and I have the best memories from grade school about when my teachers would read out loud during story time in the classroom. There was something about hearing stories being told to me out loud that made me want to read books on my own.  I also come from a family of storytellers, so the art of conveying a compelling story was something I’m very familiar with.  I can remember family gatherings where my grandmother would tell stories with great animation and enthusiasm. Sometimes she would even change her voice and intonation to reflect the voices of different characters in her stories.

So, I got hooked quickly on reading in the program and I work hard to reserve the time to read weekly or as often as I can. Seeing Julianna’s excitement each week reminds me why making time for her is worth the effort.  At the end of the school year, she gave me a card thanking me for reading to her.  The note also included the line “I wish you could be my reader in 5th grade, too.”  So, while we still have one more year of reading together during her 4th grade school year, I have already started to miss her.

A Message to Volunteers

By: Efrain Toledano, Principal of the Tobin School in Boston

I would like to take this time to thank you, the tutors from Read to a Child, for your service to our school and the great impact that you have made on our students’ lives.  I often tell my students here at the Tobin that when they are writing they have to ground their argument with concrete evidence so that people can believe what they are writing.  I would like to do the same for you all.  I would like to share two pieces of evidence to ground my prior comment about the impact that you all have on Tobin students’ lives.

The first piece of evidence is anecdotal.  This piece of evidence is the fact that I am standing up here in front of you all today.  I went to the Boston Public Schools for grades K-12.  I was also the son of a mother who only had a seventh grade education.  Despite this my community rallied around me whether it was the teacher, the City Year Corps member in my classroom, or other tutors reading to me and gave me the confidence to persevere in my studies.  It is because of a community effort that I stand today as the Principal of the Tobin.  You all are doing this same work with these students.

The second piece of data that I would like to share with you all is the more quantitative type.  Here at the Tobin we assess students at the early elementary level with an assessment called DIBELS.  At the beginning of the year our students performed at the following levels: 36% were at red/in need of intensive support, 12% were at yellow/in need of strategic support, and 52% were at green/meeting benchmark.  Since then we have given the MOY assessment for DIBELS and because of efforts from community partners like you all we have seen a dramatic improvement on this data.  Our students now score 20% at red, 9% at yellow, and 71% at green.

Thank you all for helping us become better at meeting the needs of our students.

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