It has been a great first year for Withrow’s Reading Center. How do we know? The teachers and students are telling us. Volunteer and Board member Kathy Price Rieck (’73) has a manila envelope full of “thank you” notes from them, but more on that later.
Kathy, a retiree from the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County and a WAI Board member, has gathered over 1200 books for the Center through donations and WAI matching funds. She worked with both teachers and students to build the collection. For example, after a tip from the basketball coach, she ordered a recent biography about Lebron James to tempt one reader. More surprisingly, she bought the Iliad and the Odyssey because of requests from the students. Do you remember the mural of famous authors’ names in the old library?
Introducing the students to the Reading Center began with individual classroom visits. Classes from every grade as well as the English Learning Language program have visited the Center. Angela Houston, an eighth-grade English teacher, was one of the most faithful visitors with her six classes visiting every month. As she says, “Ms. Kathy and the volunteers in the Withrow Reading Room have helped pique the imaginations of my students. They are igniting a “spark” among them.”
More often than not Kathy was the ignitor of that “spark” through her readings of short stories, poetry and famous speeches to the students. Student Aarhek Lamb says, “The greatest thing about this library is the fact that Ms. Kathy keeps telling us nice stories about different things.” According to eighth-grader K’Liyah Gardner, the Reading Center is “fun and interactive.” Her class did a writing exercise with the library volunteers. Small groups got one-sentence prompts with a picture and wrote their own short stories. They read their stories out loud to cheers and applause. As Mrs. Houston points out, “Reading is not about following a pacing guide and answering questions after every chapter. Books should be about helping you discover who you are, discovering the world around you, and making connections with your life.”
Students visiting the Reading Center are registered for library cards with the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County. These cards are then used to monitor the borrowing of books from the Reading Center. Students are allowed to check out up to two books each visit. Kathy says, “Rarely does anyone walk out with just one, and they’re being really responsible about returning them.” Eighth-graders J’Vion Harkness, Zaire Dunbar and Omari McClinton each expressed the pride and sense of ownership that students have in their Reading Center with the following comments: “I like how the people convinced the administrators to give Withrow a library.” “I love that we can come here on Fridays.” “I would be devastated if there were no more Reading Center. It’s my favorite place in the school”
Obviously the start-up and successful first year of the Reading Center did not occur without the effort of many volunteers who unpacked boxes of books and then cataloged and arranged them on the shelves. Most of these volunteers were librarian friends of Kathy. Right now, the Reading Center hours and collection are limited. Volunteers currently staff the center on Fridays, which means that only a few students are able to visit outside of class hours. Plans to expand lunchtime hours next year are in the works, but we need YOU. At this point, one Board member Bob Linnenberg (’63), has stepped up to the plate and volunteered to work a lunchtime shift. Kathy says that the greatest return for the work she and her volunteers have been putting in at the Reading Center is seeing the happiness on the students’ faces when they visit. “There’s no better job in the world than working with these students.”
What can you do? It you’d like to volunteer for a weekly or monthly three-hour shift, please contact the Alumni Center (513-363-9085 or email@example.com); or you can contact Kathy Price Rieck (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out what kind of books the Center needs. Last, but not least, donations to the Reading Center can be made at by clicking HERE.