Read to Them

By Lisa Schaffner | July 12th, 2018

Sharing with kids the joy of reading

Read to Them One Richmond, One Book
Cathy Plageman, program director at Read to Them | Photograph by Lisa Schaffner

Summers growing up in rural Ohio for me were filled with adventure and suspense all because of one thing – reading. Books, particularly the Nancy Drew series, propelled me to new towns and introduced me to people I had never imagined. I can still remember being sad after reading the final pages of The Secret of the Old Clock. Exposing children – and their families – to the joy of reading is the goal of a Richmond nonprofit which needs your help this summer.

Read to Them promotes family literacy by uniting schools K through fifth grade to transform communities. “Third grade is the key year to gauge if kids are reading on level. If they aren’t by then, they can turn away and turn to violence, drugs and drinking,” explains Cathy Plageman, Read to Them program director. “We try to get children to enjoy reading by having them read a book with their family. We ask them to read 15 minutes together nightly.”

But it’s not just family members who read daily with the child. The entire school participates. Custodians, bus drivers and the cafeteria staff all read the same book at the same time. The program called “One Richmond, One Book” debuts this fall in all 26 Richmond elementary schools.

“It’s a shared experience,” says Plageman. “Kids read a chapter a night, and when the child gets on the bus in the morning, the driver will ask ‘did you read about Humphrey?’” For 13,000 elementary students in Richmond Public Schools this fall, the answer will be “yes.”


One School, One Book is one of several literacy programs that Read to Them operates in communities nationwide. Plageman, who started with the organization as a volunteer in 2013, says there’s no doubt the program is making a difference. “It’s brought families back together. One fourth-grade student told us, ‘We even turned off the TV when we read the book, it was that good!’” The accolades don’t get better than that!

“One Richmond, One Book” kicks off in October with a book that has not yet been chosen. Each school will have kickoff celebrations and special events during the approximate three weeks it will take to read the book. That’s where volunteers are needed – and lots of them!

“We have 26 schools, and ideally we’d like to have 10 volunteers per school. We’re talking 300 volunteers,” says Maia Kling, who heads up engagement and research for Read to Them. “Volunteers can help teachers prepare the reading events or host a discussion group or be a classroom guest reader,” explains Kling. “The typical One Richmond, One Book volunteer is someone who wants to give back, someone who enjoys being with children, being present and who can listen.”

Read to Them will begin registering volunteers on its website by the end of July. In addition to volunteering, there will also be opportunities to sponsor a child, a classroom, a grade level or an entire school.

One Richmond, One Book will break down into three events: the fall book reading, a spring reading of a second book and a 2019 summer book giveaway.

“We want to see children reading for the joy of it. We want them to have experiences and be taken places they’ve never been,” exclaims Plageman.

The 8-year-old child in me already knows the joy these students will experience. I’m so excited for them and all those who will be Giving Back to make it happen.


These worthy organizations need your help


HOW IT HELPS: Read to Them promotes family literacy and provides literacy programs that support reading at home and at school through shared experiences for students K-5.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Sponsor a One Richmond, One Book classroom or grade level, or become a volunteer for the program.


CONTACT: Visit the website or call 804-367-3195 or email or



HOW IT HELPS: Reach Out for Life provides free mammograms for women in need for the early detection of breast cancer.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Participate in the Third Annual Reach Out for Life Charity Sporting Clays Event on June 16 at 9 a.m. at Central Virginia Sporting Clays in Fluvanna County.


CONTACT: visit the website and download a registration form. 



HOW IT HELPS: CKG Foundation (Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation) provides free mental health programs and support for teenagers living with depression.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: Volunteer at the annual SpeakUp5K in Richmond’s Byrd Park on Saturday, Sept. 8.


CONTACT: Visit the website and click on “Get Involved” or call 804-528-5000.

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