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Kiwanis Reading Partnership

In 2002, the Kingsport Kiwanis Club launched its Reading Partnership with Kennedy and Roosevelt Elementary Schools. These schools were selected as they had the most students from low-income families, with high student turnover in enrollment numbers. The objective of the Kiwanis Partnership was to aid the schools in attaining their objective of improving reading ability in the Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. The schools wanted all graduating 3rd graders to be able to read at "grade level".

The club signed up over 40 members and spouses as volunteer readers. The readers were organized into teams of three so they could swap with a team member if they had a conflict. Each team was assigned to a specific teacher for the year. The teacher selected which student or students would have one-on-one time with the Kiwanis Reader. The student and Kiwanian would sit in the hall and read the books the student had brought with him/her. Reading sessions lasted from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, depending on the child's ability to read and attention span. If the child was a good reader, the Kiwanis volunteer just listened and made suggestions on pronunciation or asked questions to see if the student understood the material. If the student was a raw beginner, the Kiwanis Reader might teach the letters of the alphabet or how to sound out words.

In addition to teaching reading skills, the Kiwanians were also peer models for the children. Many of the kids came from single parent homes and did not get much encouragement at home. By giving the child their full attention, the Kiwanis readers provided a valuable gift - worth as much as the reading help.


Kingsport TimesNews

June 21, 2015

by Holly Nelms


KINGSPORT -- For 15 years, Kingsport Kiwanis Club members have volunteered their time in a reading program for elementary school children, and their acts of kindness have made a big impact.

The idea of a reading program was first conceived in 2000, when the Kingsport Kiwanis Club’s Major Emphasis Committee met to discuss ways that the club could be more involved in serving children, while also involving as many Kiwanis Club members as possible.

“Out of all of the meetings, all the ideas, we thought that a reading program would best serve our overall objective, and that’s what we began to do,” Kingsport Kiwanis Club member Wayne Ladd said.

After determining which schools had the most need for volunteer reading programs, the club decided to partner with Kennedy and Roosevelt Elementary Schools in Kingsport. Teams of three Kiwanis volunteers were then assembled, with 22 reading teams assembled during the first year. The volunteers read to kindergarten through third grade children and provide students with one-on-one attention.

“Some students are so far behind in reading that it’s very difficult for them to catch up unless they have special attention, and so one-on-one reading is the only way that they’re going to be able to catch up,” Kingsport Kiwanis Club Communications Committee Chairperson Bill Sade said.

Kiwanis volunteers read to children for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the number of children who would like to read and the level of interest the students display. Kiwanians typically read with children whose reading skills are a little behind those of other classmates, but oftentimes they will also act as a role model for students.

“It turns out [some students] may not have a male mentor in their home, so we often act as a means for the child to dialogue socially,” Ladd said.

Volunteer readers were not the only reading needs at these schools, however. Once volunteers began reading at both schools, they discovered that the school libraries were in need of better reading materials for the children. The club then began providing funds for these improvements.

This year, $1,500 was donated to Roosevelt Elementary School, and $1,000 was donated to Kennedy Elementary School for library improvements. Since implementation of the reading program, funds donated to the schools have exceeded $35,000.

In addition to providing funds for library improvements, the Kingsport Kiwanis Club donates 50 books per year to the schools, with approximately 25 books going to each school.

“It is another way of expanding the library, aside from the moneys that are given directly to the library for the purchase of books,” Ladd said.

The club also funds the Reading is Fundamental and Character Counts programs at both schools, rewards outstanding students in local elementary, middle and high schools and donates coats and shoes to Kennedy and Roosevelt students.

The Kingsport Kiwanis Club welcomes new members who would like to help with the reading program and other community projects. For more information about the club and its community outreach, visit