Look Inside Read to Them’s Digital Resource Hub!

Read to Them is always on the lookout for resources to add to our creative program materialsall the stuff that will make your reading event interactive and fun. Over the past few months, Read to Them staff has worked to curate a plethora of supplemental digital resources to further enhance your reading experience— and you can find them all on the Digital Resource Hub.

The Digital Resource Hub, conceived and designed by Program Developer, Chloe Grant, houses materials for over forty Read to Them titles with additional titles loaded to the site monthly. Every book listed on the Digital Resource Hub is bolstered by several components: 

Chloe Grant and Oliver Perry provide a warm welcome to your Flipgrid community

Each book on the Digital Resource Hub has a Flipgrid community for students to engage with others who are currently reading along with them. Each week of the reading event includes discussion questions and a bonus activity that students can respond to via video or text. It’s a space for kids to guide the conversations surrounding their reading experience, all while granting students a creative outlet and delving deeper into the text. Don’t worry: when you arrive on the Flipgrid, there’s a welcome video filmed by Read to Them staff if you’re looking for the right place to start.

There are daily Kahoot! quizzes that correspond to the reading schedule. Each Kahoot! features 6 to 8 questions, allowing for a quick, entertaining trivia match in the classroom or at-home. We even put one together so you can have a little Kahoot! fun for yourself. Just click the link from your computer and join the game by typing the Game PIN in your phone – enjoy!  

The Digital Resource Hub also includes access to the #OneBookConnects blog. Here you will find posts for all past and future #OneBookConnects titles, including Character Spotlights that give you a glimpse into main and secondary characters for each #OneBookConnects selection, as well as exclusive author interviews and essays on major themes. Each week we close with a Friday Reconnect with bonus activities, discussion questions, and writing prompts. 

All you have to do is visit the Digital Resource Hub site and find the book your school is reading. While each book is password protected, the information you need to access these materials is available in the Activities file and in the Family Fun Pack that is shared prior to your reading event. 

Don’t see the book selected by your school on the Digital Resource Hub? Contact us at programs@readtothem.org so we can add the title to our line-up of working titles and create a full suite of Digital Resources for you! 

Getting (Almost) Super with Marion Jensen

Few books in Read to Them’s library are able to balance wit, respect, forgiveness, and the power of familial bonds with the ease of Marion Jensen’s Almost Super.  Jensen presents these themes in an action-packed world brimming with superheroes – some who possess incredible powers and some with gifts that are absolutely ridiculous. We recently had the opportunity to correspond with Jensen about his novel, his writing, and what it takes to be a hero. 

If you’re reading Almost Super, be sure not to miss the opportunity to contact Marion Jensen for a personalized welcome message for your school! 

What was your relationship with reading like growing up?

My parents had a library of old books down in our basement. I used to pick through the books, looking at the covers, and imagining the stories inside them. When I was old enough to read, I found that books were like a time machine. I could lose myself in the story while I rode on the bus or went on a long trip. I couldn’t believe that I could carry an exciting adventure around in my backpack.

What has been your most rewarding experience as an author?

I LOVE going to schools and talking to the readers, especially after they’ve read the book. There is nothing better than hearing a reader talk about the characters and ask about the writing process.

What was the inspiration for your novel, Almost Super?

At the time, I was telling my children stories each night to help them get to sleep. Their favorite stories were the ones where they were the characters, and they had superpowers. They asked me over and over again to tell them most adventures where they could do amazing things.

Simply having super powers doesn’t make you a superhero – so in what ways do you try to be a superhero in your everyday life?

That’s one of the main themes of Almost Super! When life doesn’t just give you what you want, then you must work for it. I’ve found the best way to do amazing things in your life is a little each day. Day after day, week after week, year after year. Doing a little at a time, over a long period of time, can make a huge difference.

Resilience is quite prevalent in Almost Super. In the past year, how have you managed to remain positive and look on the brighter side of things?

You can only do so much by yourself. When things get hard, there are always people in your life who are ready to help you. Whether it’s friends, family, a teacher, or somebody else, you can get through the hard times better when you go with a friend.

If kids could learn one lesson from the characters in Almost Super, what do you hope it would be?

Jensen promoted Almost Super at Salt Lake Comic Con

The characters in Almost Super wanted to be superheroes. When things didn’t go exactly how they thought, they didn’t give up. They thought, planned, worked, and kept an open mind. Then, when they needed to be brave, they were. I hope readers can realize that if they work as hard as the characters in the story, they will do amazing things.

If you could have any super power, what would it be? Would you use this power for good or for evil? A little of both?

I love this question! I think if I had an amazing superpower, then people would look at what I accomplished, and say, “He can do amazing things because he has a superpower, so I can’t do those amazing things.” So, the power I would want is something worthless, so people would realize they can do amazing things too. My power would be the ability to grow a mustache, on-demand.

What is something you hope families get out of reading Almost Super with Read to Them?

There are some important themes in the book. Without giving too much away, I hope that readers and families will be reminded of how similar we all are, and how much more we can do when we work together.

Do you have any advice or tips for young writers?

Yes! Three pieces of advice. Read a lot. Write a lot. And the first draft is never perfect. Edit, edit, edit, and make it better every time.

Before we go, is there anything else you’d like families and educators to know? 

If your school has chosen Almost Super for your One School, One Book program, I’d love to hear from you! Please reach out to me at marionjensen@gmail.com and I will be happy to record a personalized message for your students and teachers.

To keep up with the latest from Marion Jensen, you can find him on Twitter or visit his website. If you enjoyed Almost Super, be sure to pick up the sequel, Searching for Super, at a bookstore near you!

Book Selection at Read to Them

Finding a good book is just as profound as the act of delving into a story. In fact, Read to Them’s staff is constantly on the search for books that students, teachers, and families will all enjoy. It’s a long and careful process, one that wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of Read to Them’s Book Selection Committee. 

The Book Selection Committee (BSC)  is currently composed of nine people: three Read to Them staff members, a member of Read to Them’s board of directors, and five educators from three different states. Together, this group dives into the ever-expanding pool of children’s literature to further enrich Read to Them’s library of titles. 

“First and foremost, we are looking for great stories,” Sara Hudson, Programs Specialist at Read to Them and BSC member, explains. “Books that make you sigh at the end, books that get you immersed in the narrative, books with characters that you want to spend the day with. We are also looking for books that will resonate with a whole school community.” 

The BSC’s goal is to find titles that will keep the Intro, Sweet Spot, Intermediate, and Middle School book lists balanced. It is hoped that new books selected and recommended for Read to Them will be diverse and increase the opportunities for students to see themselves reflected on the page. It’s also important that new books are available in Spanish for schools with Spanish-speaking families. 

We are also always looking for new authors with fresh voices to add to the list,” Hudson says.  “Renée Watson is one such author. We are adding Ways to Make Sunshine in August to our Sweet Spot list, and we are looking at some of her other books for middle school readers.” 

The Book Selection Committee spends six months working to produce each new slate of titles. This diligent process begins with a getting-to-know-you meeting among the members where introductions are traded and any new committee members are welcomed aboard. A second session is held to showcase the books under consideration, a list of titles that accumulates in a stack of approximately 75 titles. During the third meeting, the potential titles list is narrowed to around two dozen titles. 

During the first pruning, every contender is read by at least two people. By the third, pivotal meeting, the remaining books are read by the whole committee to prepare for the final cut.  

Hudson explains: “Committee members submit scorecards for the books they read with their impressions of the book on different characteristics – plot, characters, je ne sais quoi, and any red flags that the committee should consider.”

There are multiple reasons a book might not pass from one stage of the selection process to the next. For instance, a book may seem promising to one committee member, but fall flat among the rest. The book could also be too long, such as a 350 page text for a Sweet Spot contender. A prospective title could also be axed if it doesn’t work for One School, One Book. One such title was Gene Luen Yang’s Dragon Hoops, a graphic novel with wide appeal to many readers, but isn’t a good fit for a school-wide reading event. 

“We have to be cognizant of the wide range of life experiences of a school population,” Hudson says. “Some topics might be too challenging for a school-wide reading event. We want those books in school libraries, classrooms, and the hands of readers. But, we also need to respect the needs of our schools.” 

Once any major red flags clear the BSC’s judgment, a final meeting is held to reach an agreement on the five or six titles that will be added to Read to Them’s available titles. 

Though there is much debate over which titles make the final cut, Hudson reassures that: “The debate process is spirited and lively, but also respectful. We have had good luck on coming to a consensus on our final list.” 

The BSC aims to select titles that everyone is enthusiastic – not divided – about. Read to Them aims for this enthusiasm to be immediately accessible to school leaders who consider suggested Read to Them titles and pick up new ones, too. 

Some books that didn’t quite make it through the last round of selection are carried over for consideration in the next cycle. Many are strong contenders, but their content or theme didn’t quite fit with the other top selections. In a time when children’s literature is richer than ever, though, there’s hardly a shortage of new, poignant work to pair up and select from. 

“It truly is a golden age for children’s literature,” Hudson reflects. “Today’s authors write with such authenticity, compassion, and respect for their young readers. They take their responsibility to these young people seriously, and they are writing books that truly will change lives. Students and families will have deep and meaningful experiences reading these books together.”

Do you have a title, series, or author in mind? You can use the book suggestion tab on the Read to Them website to suggest prospective books you’d like the Book Selection Committee to consider. Or, if you’d like, reach out with your suggestion via Read to Them’s social channels on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

5 Tips for Preventing the Summer Slide

Summer is right around the corner, and with a year where most kids have spent their school day in front of a screen, a vacation is well-deserved. Most summers, though— especially this one—children are likely to cast aside anything to do with academics. 

This loss of learning, known as Summer Slide, is a regression of knowledge students experience between school years. It’s the idea that learning slows and, once school starts up again, educators must dedicate precious time in their curriculum to playing catch up, re-teaching skills from the last school year. For parents determined to avoid the Summer Slide, there are a number of ways to keep kids in an academic mindset even as they take a break from an online or in-person classroom. To help you get started, Read to Them has compiled a number of tips: 

  1. Set Reasonable Goals – You don’t have to spend eight hours a day to prevent summer learning loss. By dedicating 15-30 minutes in your child’s schedule to academic-based activities, you’re establishing positive habits and laying the foundations for educational success. According to Scholastic, just reading six books over the summer can keep a young reader from regressing – but don’t let that limit the number of stories you dive into.
  2. Read Daily – It’s been found that children can lose up to 25% of their reading skills over the summer months, greatly impacting the start of school come Fall. Encourage your young scholar to read at every opportunity they can: the newspaper over breakfast, magazines, graphic novels, even the side of a shampoo bottle. Anything that captures their attention is beneficial! Have your child discuss what they’re reading – if you wish, you could even turn these exchanges into a family book club.
  3. Read Aloud – Children of all ages can benefit from hearing books read aloud to them. For pre-readers, this can be a great way to focus on letter and sound recognition; for beginners, reading aloud can aid in learning proper pronunciation and practicing sight words. Scholars that are a little older might prefer to read aloud to you from their current book of choice before bed or at the dinner table. Strapped for time? You could put on an audio book during a long car ride to further build listening comprehension. 
  4. Select Books Your Kids Like – Reluctant readers will further shun the idea of reading if they’re forced to read books that don’t interest them. Giving your scholar the freedom to pick books that bolster their interests is a surefire way to ensure they read more. If you’re looking for a place to start, take a look at our book lists for titles that correspond to your child’s age and reading level.
  5. Take Library Trips – Your public library is a wealth of both physical and digital resources. Libraries are free to use and are widely accessible if you have a library card. (And if you don’t, the process to get one is quick and easy.) When you take your visit, don’t be afraid to stop at the help desk – librarians are more than eager to aid in pairing your scholar with books they’ll enjoy while also being age-appropriate. Most libraries host summer reading programs, as well, so be sure to check those out, too! 

The important thing to remember is this: summer learning doesn’t have to be removed from summer fun. Be sure to enjoy yourselves and the togetherness that comes from building a culture of literacy. 

Happy reading!

Read Aloud to a Child Week 2021 Theme Contest

Every year during the last week of October, Read to Them hosts Read Aloud to a Child Week, a national event meant to showcase the importance of reading aloud to children and to encourage families to read together. Usually the theme for this event is selected by Read to Them staff, but for this year, we’re bringing you the opportunity to select the theme yourself. 

For over 20 years, Read Aloud to a Child Week has been a stress-free way to engage with the literacy community. It truly is as simple as picking up a book and reading aloud as a family! And with Read to Them curating book lists for picture and chapter books, it’s even easier to dive into stories that enrich the selected theme.  

The Read Aloud to a Child Week theme for 2020 was “Let Your Voice Be Heard” which highlighted titles about preserving the environment, voting, identity, bullying, and the power of speaking up. Given the turbulent year behind us, it felt fitting to shine a light on silver-linings and the pillars of strength that kept our communities functioning amid strife and struggle.

Below are the four potential themes and their descriptions:

  • Diversity— Encourage your children to practice and understand the value of being inclusive. Finding books that mirror your children’s experiences can break down walls and offer sliding doors for them to step into worlds both similar and different from their own. By celebrating different cultures, languages, genders, ethnicities, and social backgrounds, you can look at your reflection to appreciate what makes you unique in this world.
  • Community Helpers— Medical professionals, teachers, mail carriers, firefighters and librarians are the backbone of communities everywhere. The contributions, sacrifice, and resilience of these community helpers have made all of our lives a little easier over the course of this difficult year.  Find and settle in with stories that celebrate the strength of these irreplaceable pillars in your community.  It’s a perfect way to help your children discover an even deeper appreciation for each of their services.  
  • Coming Together— The new normal of the last year has involved social distancing and staying connected through screens, making it all the more important to find ways to build bridges and make connections.  Find and stories that heal.  Explore stories that build community and togetherness.  Delve into stories that connect and can unite us all.
  • Gratitude Select gratitude and you’ll be encouraged to reflect on the positive parts of your everyday life— the little things, the vital things— that bring you joy. Discover stories that celebrate being thankful for the big, the small, and the in-between. This theme will present you with the opportunity to ask children: Who are you grateful for? Where do you find the light when the world feels dark?

You have until Friday, June 26th to cast your vote for this year’s theme, so don’t delay! You can find the poll on the Read Aloud to a Child Week program page. Be sure to follow Read to Them on Facebook for more information and 2021’s theme reveal as the event draws nearer. 

Happy reading!

Cobb Imprint Sponsors Virginia School for a Third Year

Students at Crestview Elementary in Henrico, Virginia took part in the Virginia Reads One Book program this past March. They, along with 50 other elementary schools across the state, dove into the timeless pages of E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. However, their participation in the program would not have been possible without Cobb Imprint’s support.

Cobb Imprint, the charitable arm of Cobb Technologies, has served as a Read to Them partner since 2019. With their goal to help children in their communities meet and exceed their education potential, Cobb Imprint was eager to aid Crestview Elementary in nurturing its culture of literacy. 

Noah Maphis, Director of Community Outreach at Cobb Technologies, explains that Cobb Imprint’s mission consists of three pillars.

“Promoting food and housing security, promoting wellness, and promoting education and literacy,” Maphis says. She goes on to add that, in their six years of serving communities, Cobb Imprint made a vital observation: “We have learned how important it is for children to have strong literacy skills from an early age.” 

Thanks to the generous donations from Cobb Imprint, Crestview Elementary has participated in three reading events between 2019 and 2021. 

Cobb Imprint works with Read to Them to ensure each student and staff member at Crestview Elementary receives a copy of their selected title, Maphis claims the community support does not end with a donation. 

“We get books out to the community in various ways,” she says. “By partnering with local schools to send students home with “book bags”, setting up reading libraries in after school programs, and providing other local organizations with book donations – such as Read to Them with their One School, One Book program.” 

Maphis is, above all, pleased to note that with every year and every read, participation at Crestview Elementary only grows.

“I know the program not only stimulates the students from an academic standpoint but gives them a sense of community with their peers and the school staff- which is invaluable. We are so honored that we can be a part of that bonding experience.” 

Looking ahead, Maphis hopes she and other members of the Cobb Technologies team can visit Crestview Elementary. All parties are eager to be in a place where books can be distributed in-person and volunteers can read with students again.

The Best of #OneBookConnects Author Interviews

Since its launch in April 2020, #OneBookConnects has become one of Read to Them’s staple programs. The digital reading initiative was created to combat wide-spread school closures that left parents and students in need of enrichment to fulfill the loss of in-classroom learning. In the course of a year, over 28,000 students have participated in #OneBookConnects. Each of our selected titles have been bolstered by author interactions, including live Q&As on Instagram and exclusive interviews on the #OneBookConnects blog.

Below, we have selected the brightest gems from the treasure trove of advice and wisdom offered by each author. Enjoy! 


On their relationship with reading as a child: 

Elana K. Arnold (A Boy Called Bat): I’ve always been a big reader when I was a little kid. I was a lot like Bat. I didn’t know much about making friends, I didn’t feel very comfortable in social situations, I didn’t have a really good time controlling my body in space and time, and books were a place where I just felt very comfortable and safe. I was a very avid reader. I can’t even remember a time before I read.

Liesl Shurtliff (Rump): I liked reading, except when I was made to read, though I loved being read to, always. It didn’t matter what it was, I always loved it. I think it was that we were experiencing the story all-together. There’s power in communal acts, in experiencing something as a group, and reading together creates incredible bonds of empathy and understanding. I was quite imaginative as a child. I loved all things fairytales and magic and believed wholeheartedly in fairies and mermaids. I felt (and still do feel) that we live in a magical world. No matter how much we learn about the world from a scientific view, it’s still wondrous and magical to me.

Chris Kurtz (The Adventures of a South Pole Pig): When I was a boy, reading was a family tradition begun and sustained by my mother. She read to us long after we could read to ourselves. Those shared books are some of my best memories.

On what they hope families will get out of #OneBookConnects: 

Lisa Cline-Ransome (Finding Langston): I hope families in particular read about the power of love, acceptance and finding home wherever you land. In Finding Langston we see the grief [Langston] and his father endure and it is only through their love for each other and their need to be a family to each other that they are able to find a way to discuss and come to terms with their losses and loneliness. I think what it shows us is that when we have nothing else, we have family and community to see us through our most challenging times.

Wendy Orr (Nim’s Island): I hope that they feel that sense of connection with the other families across the country who are doing it, too: maybe sharing something special at a difficult time will help us remember that no matter where we live or what we look like, we all have the same feelings.

Zetta Elliot (Dragons in a Bag): Elders often play a central role in my stories, and that’s true of Dragons in a Bag and The Dragon Thief. With Ambrose, too, I tried to point to people in our society that we treat as though they’re invisible. I hope when families read my book, they let the story live beyond the page—that they discuss the idea of belonging and what courage looks like, and that they see themselves in Jaxon as he takes risks and asks for help from his family and friends.


On writing and reading advice for children: 

Sharon Creech (Granny Torrelli Makes Soup): It’s simple, but it works for me: read a lot, write a lot. Experiment. Write short things until you feel ready for something longer. Try different genres and forms: short stories, plays, poetry, fantasy, realism—whatever interests you. Most of all: have fun with it!

Sally Warner (EllRay Jakes is a Rock Star): As your writing children get older, encourage them sometimes to try writing from a different point of view. For instance, if she has written in a journal about a fight with her cousin and shared that with you, you might try asking her to write about that fight from her cousin’s point of view.

Your writing child might try that when making up a story (writing fiction), too.

That’s not ‘taking sides’ in the argument, it’s stretching that child’s writing muscle–and, perhaps, empathy.

Victoria Coe (Fenway & Hattie): To readers, my best advice is to read whatever you want. Read what interests you. Read what makes you feel all the feels. Read whatever you enjoy reading. That’s the most important thing.

To writers, my best advice is to read. The more you read, the more those stories will become part of you, the more you’ll just “know” what makes a great story.

Emily Jenkins (Toys Go Out): Don’t be afraid to imitate writers you like, and to borrow their styles, or their subject matter. That’s what painters do! They learn by copying great works of art. Sometimes teachers tell students to only write about their own lives, or to limit themselves to writing small moments. But know what? I disagree with those teachers. Imagination is one of the things that makes us uniquely human, and not everyone wants to read about small moments! Some people want stories about battles and adventures, magic and drama! Right now, all your writing is practice and one of the best ways to practice making the kinds of things you like to read is to imitate writers who do it well. It’s not stealing. It’s learning.


On story-telling: 

Arnold: The thing about being a human, is that children are whole people already. They are not practiced people or partial people, or vessels waiting to be filled. Children are whole people, and at a very young age, almost immediately, they’ve experienced so many of the core human emotions, right? Love, contentedness, fear, anger. The things that make us human, make all of us human.

Elana K. Arnold was interviewed virtually for #OneBookConnects

From children all the way to one hundred and four year old wonderful people like Beverly Cleary. So I think paying attention to the things that make us essentially human, those human core emotions, and centering them in your writing, paying attention and writing about them is enough. A book, a story, does not have to be a grand adventure that takes place in a far away space with dragons— although I love those books, too. A true story about what it feels like to be locked in your house with your baby sister on day seventeen of the pandemic, and what happened on that day is enough. It’s a whole world, so all the major human experiences kiddos, you have them already. You are a human, and a storyteller already. You don’t have to wait to be a grown-up to tell your story. You don’t have to wait until your spelling and your handwriting are perfect to tell your story…I am just a teller of stories, so all you have to do, children, is tell your story. And if you continue to tell stories then gain momentum over time, and over time, if you want to share your stories in various ways, you can do so. Zoom is actually a great way to share stories. So you don’t need to think that because you can’t make a whole packaged book, you’re not a writer. You’re a storyteller if you tell stories, even if you don’t put them on paper. And all of us, I think, are storytellers— stories connect us all. 

You can find the full-length version of each author interview on our Digital Resource Hub, here.

Celebrate D.E.A.R. Day With Us!

Have you found yourself overwhelmed? Loads of chores to do? Tired after a long day? Well, why don’t you just Drop Everything And Read! 

D.E.A.R. Day was established to encourage readers young and old to make reading a priority. Further, organizers hope that families find themselves motivated to put aside all distractions and enjoy reading a book together.  That first step can lead to rewarding new reading habits that last a lifetime. 

D.E.A.R. Day was first inspired by a passage from the beloved book, Romona Quimby, Age 8 (1981), by Beverly Cleary. It’s why D.E.A.R. Day is nationally celebrated in tandem with Cleary’s birthday every April.

You can celebrate and carry Beverly Cleary’s legacy forward with a number of classics, such as the Ramona Quimby, the Henry Huggins, or the Ralph S. Mouse series. Whether you’re reading a picture book, a graphic novel, or a chapter book, take some time out of your day to enjoy a story. But don’t just Drop Everything And Read today— by finding time in your schedule for a great book, you can make reading a daily hobby. 









Looking for ways to celebrate D.E.A.R. Day?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Read Aloud – Settle in with a book of your choice and read it aloud for at least 15 minutes. With our reading tips, you can make reading aloud a fun activity for the whole family on D.E.A.R. Day – and beyond.
  • Shared Space Reading – If you prefer to read independently, but still want to spend time with your family, select your own books and read together in a shared space. At the end of your reading period, take a few minutes to share what you read about. You might find yourself interested in trading books! 
  • Library Visit – Take a trip to your public library. Most libraries allow you to check out at least ten books at a time, but if you don’t have a library card, it’s a short, easy process that will grant you access to your library’s collection of books, music, and movies. 
  • Roundabout Retelling – Once you’ve read a section from your book of choice, take a few minutes to talk about what you’ve read. Share your favorite parts – the scenes that stood out, the language or imagery that touched you, or a piece of dialogue that made you laugh. So long as you’re spending time with the text and sharing your thoughts, you’re doing it right! 
  • Writing Prompts – This is your opportunity to be creative. Imagine the story from the point of view of another character. Write about how you would act if you were suddenly dropped into the book you’re reading. Or maybe write a short story of your own! Then, share that work by either reading it aloud or letting a family member take a look. 
  • Reflections – If you prefer to keep your thoughts between you and the text, jot down your impressions in a notebook. Here, you can discuss anything you’d like — what about your reading excites you? How does the main character resonate with you? What about the plot or characters encouraged you to find out what happened next? It can even be as simple as sharing a few sentences about what you’ve read. If you keep it up, you may even find yourself in the habit of keeping a reading journal! 

Banks Sponsor Schools in Virginia Reads One Book 2021

The Virginia Reads One Book program has been a huge hit with families and schools since its launch in 2018. Though the program was presented digitally for its fourth run, it didn’t stop students across Virginia from spending three weeks getting to know the cast of E.B. White’s timeless classic, The Trumpet of the Swan. The novel also serves as a Financial Literacy title, planting the seeds for positive personal finance lessons just in time for Financial Literacy Month in April. 

Copies of Trumpet were received at Buckingham County Elementary by principal, Bryan Jackson (left)

For the 2021 reading event, 19 schools across the state were sponsored by Virginia banks and the Virginia Bankers Association (VBA) Education Foundation.

According to Monica McDearmon, a manager of communications and financial education at the VBA, the state of Virginia is “leading the charge in personal finance and economics education thanks to efforts from banks, teachers, school administrators, and other organizations that promote financial literacy in Virginia.”

Participating banks were eager to offer their aid in providing students and their families a fun, creative way to participate in VAROB at home.

“The VBA Education Foundation provided links of recordings of chapter readings to participating schools,”  said McDearmon. She adds that bank sponsors were able to offer their support both virtually and in-person: “Our banks were encouraged to be involved at kick-off ceremonies; provide trivia prizes to students; serve as guest readers; and present financial literacy lessons that correlated to the themes of the book.”

Though the 2021 program’s launch differs from previous reading events, Michelle Mogel from TowneBank Richmond views the digital aspects as a strength. Covid-19 has allowed the banks to broaden their support to “middle and high school students,” said Mogel. “We have been sharing lessons about balancing family budgets (income-vs-expenses) and careers in banking.”

The overarching belief among each sponsor is that children are never too young to learn about the importance of smart financial decisions.

FirstBank employee looking eager to dive into all things Financial Literacy

“Learning to make wise choices with money and the importance of saving are just as important as habits like brushing our teeth and eating fruits and vegetables,” says Mogel. “Empowering children with responsible financial behavior will help them discern the confusing messages about spending in our culture.”

McDearmon adds that planting these seeds early can aid students in navigating how to “manage money and make good financial decisions [that] will ensure that they grow up to be educated consumers.”

Christian S. Kent of Chesapeake Bank points out that Financial Literacy has a vital role in poverty reduction.

“It is important for parents and children to understand money basics, to learn how to manage finances well, and make better lifestyle decisions,” says Kent. “VAROB strengthens these efforts by uniting parents and schools for more consistent messaging and shared activities that hopefully provide positive bonds to family and also money beliefs. Financial literacy teaches children important skills as they develop and hopefully refreshes the parents and encourages more conversations.”

Students were eager to delve into this E.B. White classic!

In The Trumpet of the Swan, students follow the story of Louis, a Trumpeter Swan who is born without a voice.  During the book he works a series of jobs – camp bugler, entertaining the Boston Swan Boats, at a jazz club in Philadelphia – and earns the money to pay for the trumpet that gives him a voice.  Along the way students get a great lesson in earning and savings – inspired by this intrepid swan.


The text is layered with many other great financial literacy themes, says McDearmon. She points out that these topics include “the difference between needs and wants; the importance of saving; understanding money; profits and losses; and goods and services.”

Finances can be intimidating. Budgeting, earning money, working a job, and making purchases are things everyone has to learn at one point in their lives. By participating in VAROB, these Financial Literacy building blocks are presented in a format that is equal parts fun, encouraging, and helpful, as students build their knowledge of basic economic concepts. 

Kent goes on to add that, “Financial challenges also create an opportunity to learn new skills and models in which to live by.” It reinforces the idea that though students may face a multitude of challenges in their lives, by learning and using these skills, students can curate a toolkit that will “better prepare them for success in the future.”

VAROB 2022 will launch in March of next year. Read to Them, the VBA Education Foundation, and the plethora of bank sponsors are already looking ahead, eager to further enrich communities across Virginia with long-lasting Financial Literacy lessons.

Take a Journey ‘Into the Wardrobe’

“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice.

“When I say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way

of saying hello or good morning.”

Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White


This past year has brought unprecedented changes to both our home and school lives. With greater frequency, people have turned to books as a means of solace and escape, sharing stories as a way of maintaining a vital piece of human connection that’s been lost during the age of COVID-19. 

Read to Them is constantly striving to promote ways to expose educators, families, and students to the world of language and the pleasures of reading. In an effort to further these endeavors, Read to Them is launching Into the Wardrobe

Into the Wardrobe is designed to support Read to Them’s mission to create a culture of literacy in every home. Here, we’ll highlight schools across the country — and even some of our friends abroad! — who have participated in our programs as well as some of our community partners. We’ll be sharing exclusive interviews with authors from our book list, highlighting literacy-based holidays, and taking you behind the scenes of Read to Them in a way we’ve never done previously. Best of all, we’ll be curating pieces designed as building blocks for families to further support the love of reading and literacy across the country. 

Posts will begin rolling out next Friday. See you soon!