Richard Cooper reading at Ranson Elementary School

WDVM VIsited Wright Denny Intermediate School and did a great story about Black Men Read! Check it out here: https://www.localdvm.com/news/...

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. – A new program bringing the excitement of reading to fourth-grade classrooms across Jefferson County kicked off Monday. Through April 25, community members, professional actors and storytellers, and other black male role models are reading to fourth-graders as part of the national Black Men Read Program. This unique and groundbreaking endeavor created by artists, educators, and parents will provide supplemental literary education for fourth-grade students and focus on building relationships with supportive community members.  

Every other week volunteers will read culturally competent stories to all fourth-graders. Students will even get to take a book home and later take a field trip to Shepherd University for a live performance of readings and stories.

"So much can be accomplished when reading aloud to students," according to Lisa Long, a fourth-grade teacher at North Jefferson Elementary School. "A great book nurtures relationships, tickles imaginations, pushes curiosity, and assists in delivering knowledge to students. Take all of that, have a strong community role model read to students, and they really become engaged."

The volunteer readers include community members from local businesses and organizations. Long says that dynamic makes the program effective.

“They listen and wonder and are curious about this person. They want to know their story, and the students begin asking questions. This curiosity starts a relationship with that community role model who will encourage the students to expand their imaginations, be curious, ask questions, and learn more about the world."

The Black Men Read program is a collaboration between the Jefferson County Schools (JCS) Cultural Unity and Equity Department (CUE), The Black Teachers Association of Jefferson County, Shepherd University’s Contemporary Theater Studies faculty and students, and the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) theater artists. CATF Producing Artistic Director Peggy McKowen said Black Men Read is made possible by a two-year grant. The Rural Arts Collaborative, which is supported by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Fayette County Cultural Trust, supports the program. “We are so grateful to the Rural Arts Collaborative for supporting Black Men Read and providing this opportunity for students to enhance their love of reading and literature. The partnership between the Contemporary American Theater Festival, Shepherd University’s Contemporary Theater Studies program, and Jefferson County Schools is an indication of how invested the entire Jefferson County community is in students’ education. We’re proud to be a part of this collaboration.”