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Area children find joy of reading

Courtney Schultz/SCW photo

Courtney Schultz/SCW photo

While some students are taking a break from books for the summer, 40 teens are grabbing them by the handfuls.

Promising Pages, a nonprofit that donates used books to high-risk children, recently launched “Team Read, 2014.” Forty teen-interns will give out approximately 30,000 books to around 3,000 high-risk children throughout the summer as part of the new campaign. The teens will read one-on-one, hand out books as wrapped presents, collect used books and host “Magic Book parties” while gaining leadership experience and high school credit for the internship through Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

“Our job is to make kids excited about reading,” Kristina Cruise, executive director and founder of Promising Pages, said. “It’s not enough to just hand a child a book. We make kids, who could have never had a book before, gain a positive experience from reading.”

Teen Read, now in its third year, has attracted teens from across the region, including from Providence, Ardrey Kell, South Mecklenburg, Myers Park and other high schools, vying for the 40 internship spots.

“The interns are the heart and soul of the program,” Cruise said. “They are passionate and line up with the program’s beliefs.”

One of this year’s interns, 16-year-old Haley Savage of South Mecklenburg High School, said she couldn’t wait to see the change and impact her work with the program will have on the community throughout the summer.

Wells Fargo and Dilworth South End Rotary are this year’s presenting sponsors for the program, and University of North Carolina at Charlotte professor of elementary education Bruce Taylor trained the interns on early literacy intervention tactics during an orientation on Friday, June 13.

“I teach the interns the dos and don’ts of introducing reading to young people,” Taylor said. “They learn how to find the right book for a child and how to read out loud with a child.”

Cruise characterizes early literacy intervention as “anything that happens with a book when a child is young.” Underprivileged children might not have access to books at a young age due to finances, so Team Read can potentially give these children their first experience with a book.

“We open up that new page in their lives,” Cruise said.

Team Read partners with various early reading programs, including Y-Readers, A Better World, the Crisis Assistance Ministry and more to strengthen existing programs and excite kids about reading, Cruise said. A key part of that effort are the “Magic Book parties,” where the team gathers eager readers to meet their mascot, a bookworm, who holds a “magic book” that represents a step toward success.

“When kids touch the book, we tell them they now have the magic to be whatever they want to be, with the condition that they be lifelong readers,” Cruise said.

The children receive “bookworm books” at the parties, which are used books avid readers want to pass on. The interns assess appropriate reading level books for the children.

“It’s special when we can tell them that another bookworm wanted to give the book to them,” Cruise said. “The kids know those books are special because someone wanted them to know about the story.”

Although the students often come to the program because they need extra reading help, the program does not focus on phonics, but rather the enjoyment of the reading experience.

“Sometimes we get caught in correcting a reader rather than just enjoying reading,” Taylor said. “There is a time and a place to correct, but it’s more about making them self-aware readers and finding enjoyment. Enjoyment makes better readers.”

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey from the U.S. Department of Education, children who have not developed basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years. Cruise said Team Read seeks to create a positive connotation early on with reading.

“We train kids to be bookworms and appreciate good books,” Cruise said.

Taylor believes the best way to improve reading skills and make the task an encouraging experience is exposure to reading.

“Frequent reading is the best way to learn to read,” Taylor said. “It’s just like dancing; you need to practice.”

Promising Pages business manager Bill Gill said he believes Cruise created a “genius model.”

“It’s cool because there is genius behind (the program’s) concepts by making reading fun,” Gill said. “What’s extraordinary is that we have the ability to impact an entire generation. If we can get these third-graders reading at a third-grade level, we are setting them up for success in life.”

Team Read is not only beneficial for new readers, but for the teen interns, as well.

“It is through Promising Pages that I had the chance to fully understand the need in our community and was given the opportunity to jump in and make a difference in the lives of many children,” said Allie Halter, a 2011 Promising Pages intern. The 19-year-old will lead this year’s team of interns. In her first summer with the program, Halter collected more than 4,000 books and another 8,000 books throughout the following year.

“I believe in Promising Pages’s mission with my whole heart and I truly believe that we can change the world one book at a time,” Halter said.

Promising Pages also was recognized for being environmentally friendly. The organization won a 2014 Sustain Charlotte Award for Waste Reduction, as well as the 2012 Legend Leadership Award from The Dale Earnhardt Foundation.

Email or visit if you would like to donate books or funds to Promising Pages.

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Courtney Schultz

About Courtney Schultz

Courtney Schultz is a graduate from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. She has both a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. At Campbell, she was the editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper for nearly three years and worked for the Siskey YMCA in their membership services and marketing department. She covers education news for the Matthews, Mint-Hill, and greater Charlotte areas.
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19 Responses

  1. Smiti

    It’s an amazing experience working with the interns and staff this summer!

  2. I am so grateful to be a part of this movement, we are truly changing kids’ lives by introducing them to the joy of reading!

  3. I am so proud of this organization and honored that I got to be a part of it this summer. Promising Pages is truly making a difference.

  4. This article is spot on! Not only was I completely unaware of the literacy epidemic in Charlotte before getting involved with Promising Pages, but I also had no idea that a problem of this magnitude could be easily fixed with the help of passionate, determined people such as Kristina Cruise, Executive Director of Promising Pages. With book and sponsorship donations and some hardworking volunteers, Promising Pages is revolutionizing children’s view of reading! Interns like myself have the privilege of re-purposing books that children have outgrown and giving them to deserving kids with few, if any, books at home. When kids simply get access to books, the results are incredible! Look out Charlotte because generation bookworm is on the way.

  5. I absolutely love this organization and all that it does. It really makes a difference in the loves of children, and I’m very proud to be a part of it!

  6. I’m so proud to work with an organization that is doing so much for kids. Watching the children open their book gifts and become excited about reading is the most rewarding experience.

  7. C_Sanchez

    I am very glad that there is an organization out there getting children to enjoy the pleasure of reading. With so many brain damaging distractions for young children out there like videogames and cartoons, I am fearful for every new generations future but thanks to Promising Pages, my fear have been put to rest.

  8. I am so honored to be involved with Promising Pages and have the chance to make a great impact on the lives of many children as a Team Read intern! What Promising Pages does is truly making a difference in the lives of thousands of children and the Charlotte community.

  9. I completely agree with the previous comments! I think that sometimes people take simple things like books, a safe shelter, and food for granted. I, myself, am a victim of it! Before I became a Team Read Intern, I had no idea how many people read below grade level and don’t have not many books at home. All it takes to help that issue is encouragement, patience, and a smile! Erma the Bookworma, our mascot, always tells the children that they can be smart, successful, and do whatever they want in life if they are a life-long reader! Promising Pages believes that better readers means a better world and the world can become a better place, one book at a time. As interns, we are rewarded daily by looking at the expression of the children when the see the books. For some of them, it is their first time seeing a book! This summer we are hitting 5,000 high-risk children with 30,000 books! The number of positive results are amazing and we can’t wait for a world filled with avid bookworms!

  10. Lucia Castaneda

    As one of the very lucky interns mentioned in this article, I am so glad this unique organization is being put into the spotlight it so rightfully deserves. I continue to be amazed by the hard work being done by Promising Pages, a group of individuals who truly want to improve our future generations. It’s such an amazing experience, and I hope many others will get involved! South Charlotte Weekly, thank you so much for this fantastic article and all your support!

  11. Working with Promising Pages for these last two summers has truly been a life-changing experience. It’s such a great program and it shows amazing results. I have personally seen the many lives that this organization has touched. Nothing is as rewarding as handing a book to a child and seeing the pure joy in their eyes. I would not trade this opportunity to work with Promising Pages for anything!

  12. Every moment of being a part of the “Team Read 2014” and interning at Promising Pages makes me feel proud and privileged to be working for such an amazing organization! This has truly been a really rewarding experience!

  13. Thanks so much to the South Charlotte Weekly for covering this awesome organization! The impact that Promising Pages has so efficiently made over such a short period of time is commendable. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with them as an intern!

  14. Being able to help spread the joy of reading to children all around Charlotte is such an amazing experience. Promising Pages sends a great message to kids and it really does have a positive effect. I’m so grateful to be an intern for this wonderful organization.

  15. Promising Pages is such a great organization that is making such an amazing difference, one kid at a time!

  16. Great article! Promising Pages is an extraordinary organization and I’m so glad South Charlotte Weekly is helping introduce members of the community to the awesome work Promising Pages is doing to help the Charlotte area!

  17. I have the privilege of being an intern at Promising Pages, and I can honestly say that it has impacted me deeply. I have learned shocking facts about the current number of illiterate children living in Charlotte as well as elsewhere in the world, and it has been enlightening to find an effective solution to these problems. Promising Pages aims to promote the idea that reading books will allow one to be smart and successful, and so distributing books and reading one-on-one with kids are quite helpful. I am excited to see the impact Promising Pages will have on society in years to come. Also, I can’t wait to help more kids at events along with my fellow interns!

  18. I am so blessed to be an intern with this wonderful organization! Interacting with the kids that we serve has made such a great impact me. I have become a different summer over the course of the summer interning with Promising Pages.

  19. I think Promising Pages is doing impressive work in the local promotion of literacy and I am proud to have represented this organization during Team Read 2014.

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