Children's Reading Foundation of

The Tennessee Valley

Children's Reading Foundation of

The Tennessee Valley

The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Tennessee Valley serves the children, parents, families, educators, and aspiring readers of  Roane County.
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Roane County Schools knows - Read with 'em, get smart kids

POSTED: August 19th 2013

The Roane County Schools has updated its web site and has included a new image on its home page... the Children's Reading Foundation of the Tennessee Valley's sign “Read with 'em, get smart kids" sign. Check it out at

Read with em. Get smart kids. Start early

POSTED: July 22nd 2013

            Kingston, TN – Have you seen the “Read with ‘em.  Get smart kids.  Start early.” signs along the roads in Roane County?  With the help of volunteers, Jim Leitnaker, president of the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Tennessee Valley and a Kingston resident, has been planting the signs throughout the county.

“The purpose of the signs,” says Leitnaker, “is to make Roane Countians aware of the importance of reading with young children.”  Leitnaker, a former member of the Roane County School Board, knows first-hand about the problems the schools have teaching children who enter school unprepared to read. 

            “Once our children begin school, on the average, their reading ability improves at about the same rate.  The problem is that too many children begin school with reading skills below what they should be,” says Leitnaker.  “A pre-school child who has been routinely read to by an adult begins school with significantly higher level reading skills than children who have not been read to. It is critical for parents to read to their children beginning at birth.”

            Leitnaker is also a member of the Kingston Rotary Club, which has focused its community service on scholarship and achievement of the youth in Roane County.  The Kingston and the Harriman and Rockwood Rotary Clubs are part of the 1.2 million member Rotary International organization that considers improvement of literacy to be one of the most important areas for Rotarians to focus their energies and talents. 

            Partnering with the Reading Foundation, the Kingston Rotary purchased many of the ‘Read to you child 20 minutes a day’ signs that have been seen throughout Roane County for more than a year.  Kingston, Harriman, and Rockwood Rotarians have placed many of the signs. 

In a separate initiative, the Harriman club has been instrumental in supporting the Roane Imagination Library’s fund raising initiative.  The Roane Imagination Library, which sends free books to children in Roane County, is an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

            The Reading Foundation’s efforts also encourage parents of children under age five to sign their children up for free books from the Roane Imagination Library.  “Reading to their child is a parenting responsibility that starts when the child is born,” says Leitnaker. “It begins with reading to the child and then reading with the child. The saying is correct, ‘a child first learns to read, and then reads to learn.’”

“Parents should not underestimate the importance of early reading skills to the long-term success of their child, nor their success as a future member of the workforce,” according to Allen Lutz, the Education and Workforce Development Specialist with the Roane Alliance and manager of the Alliance’s Education Matters! initiative. 

The Roane Alliance partners with the Children’s Reading Foundation because of the value that literacy and education bring to the economy of Roane County. 

Too many children begin school already too far behind because they are not read to regularly and do not have access to books in the home,” says Lutz. “As a result, these children start school with a much smaller vocabulary and fewer skills that are critical for language and reading development.”

Recent studies show that that third-grade reading proficiency heavily influences later achievement, including high school graduation. What’s needed, say many experts, is more focus on children’s language and reading skills from birth to eight years. This places a high importance on the role that parents and other caregivers play in those early years.

The Children’s Reading Foundation stresses the importance of reading to children beginning at birth to ensure that they are ready to succeed when they get to school.

Signs of the times – Read with your child

POSTED: August 10th 2012

The word is getting out – “Read with your child 20 minutes per day!”  Through the efforts of the Children’s Reading Foundation and the Kingston Rotary Club, this message is being read all over Roane County. 

To start, large colorful banners announcing, “Read with your child.  It’s the most important 20 minutes of your day” were placed at key intersections and locations in Roane County where residents could not help be see them. We also placed a couple of the banners at elementary schools.  Then we started receiving calls from the other elementary schools asking for a banner for their parents to read at their school.
The banners are big, colorful, and costly, too. We weren’t sure how we could afford the additional banners.

The Kingston Rotary Club came to the rescue and paid for twelve additional banners for the other elementary schools. 

We wanted more places throughout the county where parents would read this important message.  We designed a smaller, more affordable sign which read, “Read with your child 20 minutes a day.”  Even with the smaller sign, one-hundred signs are still expensive.

The Rotarians again came to the rescue and purchased one-hundred of the new signs and their members placed them throughout the county.  Now, after having the signs up for a few months, it’s very difficult to find someone in Roane County who hasn’t read the sign.

The Kingston Rotary Club has support educational efforts in Roane County for many years. Their support of the Reading Foundation is just one of many ways Rotarians show their care for our community and its youth.
Thank you, Rotarians!

Reading favorite books to children

POSTED: August 6th 2012

When the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Tennessee Valley participates in community events, we usually have a drawing to give away free children’s books.  As a part of the free drawing entry, we ask parents to name their children’s favorite books.   

Without fail, books in the Llama llama series by Anna Dewdney are frequently listed as favorite books. So, we were not surprised when we recently received a photograph of a parent reading “Llama llama red pajama” to her two children. Another series of books that often appears as favorites are those by Dr. Seuss.  

This started us thinking about what books did our grandparents read to our parents when they were children?  We recently learned of at least one book that answered our question, The Perhappsy Chaps, written in 1918 by Ruth Plumly Thompson and illustrated by Arthur Henderson. 

How do we know about The Perhappsy Chaps book?  From another photograph of a parent reading to a child.  Okay, the parent in this picture has stopped reading, both father and son have fallen asleep. The parent in this photograph is James M. Leitnaker, President of the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Tennessee Valley.  He has never lost his interest and excitement in reading books to children.

One more tidbit of information.  Thompson was also the author of a favorite series of children's books, twenty-one of the Oz books, which she wrote after Frank Baum passed away. Thompson’s Oz books, starting with The Royal Book of Oz  published  in 1921 and ending with The Enchanted Island of Oz in  1976.

TN First Lady launches book club - Read20

POSTED: June 10th 2012

Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam has launched the Read20 Family Book Club to promote early literacy and parental engagement in their children's academic lives.

To encourage families to read 20 minutes each day this summer, a book will be featured as the "Book of the Month" on the First Lady's Read20 Family Book Club website, where children and families of all ages can participate and acess fun, family engagement ideas, reading activities and tips.

"I am very excited to launch the Read20 Family Book Club," Haslam said. "Families reading together build a foundation for strong relationships and academic success for our Tennessee students."

Haslam selected Frindle by Andrew Clements as the featured June's "Book of the Month."

Frindle is a story about a boy named Nicholas who encounters all kinds of adventures after creating a new name for the pen: "Frindle." 

"I think children and families will enjoy the imagination and creativity of the main character in Frindle," Haslam said.