'AR Kids Read' Bringing Community Together

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) — A large crowd of volunteers, business leaders and education advocates gathered at the Arkansas Regional Innovation hub Wednesday to launch the annual volunteer recruitment campaign for AR Kids Read. During the event, elementary students shared a compelling story of the impact that building stronger readers has on a community.
“What if the whole community would help?... – We would be a lot stronger,” one of the students declared.
To give the audience a visual, over 15 business leaders and education advocates came forward with building blocks. At the end of the story, there was a pyramid that showed the different “building blocks” it takes to build stronger readers and strengthen the community.
Following the students’ presentation, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce Past Chairman, Gary Smith, spoke regarding the economic impact that reading has on our community. “As community and business leaders, we have an obligation to prepare kids today for the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow.  This begins with learning to read, so they can continue a lifetime of reading to learn.”
LRSD Superintendent, Mike Poore, offered his endorsement of AR Kids Read.  “The gift of support to help a child with reading skills is a gift that will sustain itself over the lifetime of that individual.” Said Poore. “AR Kids Read collaborates with LRSD to not only tutor but to provide books.  Perhaps most importantly, this program brings a caring, committed adult into the life of a child.  Simply put, this is huge!”
AR Kids Read tutor and Outreach Director at First Security Bank, Andrea Lewis, shared a personal story of her experience tutoring with AR Kids Read. She called the community to take action to “really consider becoming a tutor with AR Kids Read. This is such a rewarding effort that will not only change the life of someone else, but will impact your own as well.” As a working business woman, Lewis is proud that “First Security Bank has a passion to invest in our community”. She looks forward to “adding more tutors to our team this year”.
Congressman French Hill spoke about AR Kids Read and the impact that building stronger readers has on community development indicating that they “are laying the foundation for our youth – one book at a time”.  Commissioner of Education Johnny Key echoed the importance of reading stating that “ community engagement is an essential component of the state’s reading initiative – R.I.S.E. (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence).” R.I.S.E. encourages a culture of reading by coordinating a statewide reading campaign with community partners, parents, and teachers to establish the importance of reading in homes, schools, and communities. 
In closing, Executive Director of AR Kids Read, Charlie Conklin, explained how easy it is to sign up to tutor with AR Kids Read this fall. “Text TUTOR to 51555.” The goal is to recruit 500 tutors to serve in 46 local elementary schools for one hour a week during the school year from October to March.  Tutors will reach over 1,000 students to help them become stronger readers.  During the year, tutors will also provide the students books for their home libraries so that they can continue to build their reading skills throughout the year.

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