For the past two years, around twenty CBIZ employees from all different business lines have volunteered an hour each week to visit two local Kansas City Public Schools, Troost Elementary and King Elementary. CBIZ Lead to Read volunteers read with a designated 2nd-grade student on the same day each week over their lunch hour. It is an opportunity that everyone, volunteer and student alike, look forward to all week. Colby Cooper, Audit Associate at CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann, reflected that while the reading is fun, that isn’t his favorite part of being a reader. “The best part about being a reader is the interaction and happiness that you see on the kids face when you walk in the classroom - it puts a huge smile on my face when I see that happiness.”
The City of Kansas City has been focused on improving third-grade literacy since 2011, when Mayor Sly James began promoting the importance of literacy in lifelong education. In 2011, the mayor founded an initiative called Turn the Page, which has served as the voice box for literacy. That same year, Lead to Read KC began placing volunteers in classrooms and quickly became the boots on the ground for improving literacy in the schools.
Last year, Lead to Read KC provided 1,100 volunteer reading mentors to students in Kansas City. The volunteers start in September and visit the classroom throughout the school year. The program ends for the summer in May with an ice cream social, when each volunteer gives their student a book.
Children spend the first three years of elementary school learning to read. From that point onward, they read to learn. That’s why literacy is crucial from an early age, and it’s why CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann recruiting coordinator Kasey Haverkamp believes so strongly in the mission of the program. “I enjoyed getting to see my buddy grow in her reading skills over the year. Having consistent weekly interaction with the same child makes it clear that the 30 minutes a week actually does make a difference over the course of the program.”
In 2017, test scores show third grade reading proficiency in Kansas City is 55 percent, up from 33 percent in 2011 when Lead to Read KC started. With help from volunteers like the ones from CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann, that figure is expected to continue increasing. Together, CBIZ is helping to create a community of readers, one lunch hour at a time.
In addition to the traditional Lead to Read program, the CBIZ Employee Benefits division in Kansas City has participated in many other ways to help young readers in our community. Around 15 volunteers signed up to assist at a field day at Gordan Parks Elementary on their last day of school, and the division hosted a book drive for Lead to Read in the early summer. CBIZ is lucky to have leaders willing to support the participation of their employees and employees willing to donate their time to helping others.
Additional Quotes from the volunteers:
“It was her [my reader’s] first week in school, and she didn’t know her ABCs or her numbers. She was 9 years old. She had never been to school, and she was put into 2nd grade. I could not get her out of my mind, and so I go three times a week now. This girl is just amazing. School has changed her life. I still work with her. She can write her name, knows her ABCs, and all of this came about in 12 weeks.
On the last day of school, one of my readers said: “I’m gonna get you a mansion!”
--Marty Albright National IT Asset Manager & KC Area Manager, CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann
“Your presence as a reader becomes incredibly important to the student. Your full, one-on-one attention to them is something they look forward to, so you naturally feel a great responsibility for their progress throughout the year. Well worth committing an hour of your day to this effort.”
-Todd Scott, Associate Vice President, EFL Associates
“What I enjoyed most about the program was the way each child lit up when they spotted their reader. The program is important to me because literacy is crucial for surviving and thriving and is something many of us take for granted. In order for these kids (or anyone for that matter) to have a real shot at life, they need to be able to read at a young age. This will help them learn and grow for the rest of their lives. For that 30 minutes each week, I was able to connect with a child and could see the positive impact I was making on her as she progressed not only in her reading, but also her social skills.”
--Sarah Cathey, Retirement Plan Consultant, CBIZ Retirement Plan Services
“LTR is important for the children to have one on one reading time with an adult who encourages them and cares for them. I have seen the kids I read with gain confidence in themselves, and all the kids faces light up when we come into their classroom.”
--Megan Lasche, Senior Executive Assistant, CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann
“The best part about being a reader is the interaction and happiness that you see on the kids face when you walk in the classroom and it puts a huge smile on my face when I see that happiness.”
-Colby Cooper, Audit Associate, CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C.
“It was encouraging to see the improvement from my student over the semester. I also loved the interaction with the children – they were very excited to see us every week. I feel the program provides some stability in their lives of someone showing up every week to read and interact with them. I love to read, and I love to volunteer – it was the perfect setting!”
--Laura Weeks, Senior Account Manager, CBIZ, Inc.
“What I enjoyed most about the program was the excitement and joy I received from my reading partner. She was truly happy to see me each time and it was infectious. I thought I was the one giving, but I received much more in return.”
--Ann Swarts, CPA, Managing Director, CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C.
“Hands down, Lead to Read is one of the most rewarding volunteer opportunities I’ve ever taken part in. I had no idea it was possible to bond so much with a child by just seeing them for 30 minutes each week. However, by the end of each semester, I was truly invested in my reader’s success and so proud to see their reading level improve. This program makes it so easy to make an impact in our community!”
--Molly Flood, CPA, Tax Senior Associate, CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C.
To join, go to LeadtoReadkc.org and click the “Become a Reader” tab. When completing the online form, under “Business Affiliation,” include (CBIZ & Mayer Hoffman McCann).