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Program aims to encourage reading
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Jim Horton (left) works with Michael Breedlove at a recent Trudie Reads program. The programs are held at the Fayette Area Historical Initiative Museum and also at Rivermont Apartments and aim to help children with reading skills as well as encourage reading. (Contributed photos)
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

By GINNY WRAY - Bulletin Staff Writer

Wendy Kellam loves to read. So when she realized many children today were not sharing that passion, she decided to act.

Kellam formed the Trudie Reads program, first at the Fayette Area Historical Initiative (FAHI) Museum and now also at Rivermont Apartments, both in Martinsville.

“I love to read. I wanted my kids to learn to read,” said Kellam, of Bassett, adding that she read to her two sons when they were growing up and made them write reports on what they read.

But “it bothered me” when it seemed other children were not reading, she said. So on Nov. 5, she started the program.

“I want to give my love back to the community,” she added.

Trudie Reads meets at FAHI from 5 to 7 p.m. every Thursday and from noon to 2 p.m. on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month.

It recently added the Rivermont group with the assistance of Maria Nguyen, the resident service coordinator there. That group meets from 4 to 5 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.

Both groups have the same goal: to promote reading and help children read better, Kellam said.

At the FAHI sessions, Pamela Hairston-Chisholm works with the younger children and Kellam works with the older elementary, middle and high school students, she said.

Anyone can show up, and there are no fees. At least 10 people regularly attend the FAHI sessions, and they have had as many as 16, ranging in age up to 73.

John Ames, 73, works one-on-one with retired teacher and program volunteer Ann Hairston. In December, he learned to write his name, Kellam said.

For the others, the meetings include reading all types of books.

“The kids do a lot of writing and talking about a famous author’s work,” she said, adding that volunteers want to make sure the children understand what they are reading and writing about.

Sometimes, the children are rewarded for their efforts with Lillie B. Hairston Reading Awards. At a recent meeting at FAHI, Summer Breedlove, 12, and Ca’Daydra Waller, 15, each received certificates and $50 awards for writing letters to the editor that were published in the Martinsville Bulletin. Also, David Conner, 5, received a certificate and $15 award for perfect attendance and being the hardest worker.

Lillie B. Hairston was Hairston-Chisholm’s late mother, and Trudie is Gertrude Stokes of Martinsville, Kellam’s 95-year-old grandmother.

Kellam said she often is asked if she is a teacher, but she is not. She attended college and works at Technique Solutions, an information technology company in Martinsville.

She is the director of Trudie Reads, and the planning committee includes Hairston-Chisholm, Ann Hairston, Jared Kellam and D.J. Preston.

Volunteers with the group are Hairston-Chisholm; Ann Hairston and Linda and Jim Horton, all retired teachers; Neal Hairston; Phyllis Pounds; and Kellam’s sons, DeAndre Kellam Sr., 18, and Brandon Kellam Jr., 16, both students at Franklin County High School.

Kellam welcomes more students and volunteers to the sessions. More help would enable them to do more one-on-one assistance and to work in smaller groups, she said.

In February, the group plans to focus on Black History Month, with related projects and awards. Also, volunteers will interview successful young black area residents to get their perspectives and insights on success, according to an email from Hairston-Chisholm.


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