Jefferson Award Winner Founded Leaders Are ReadersBy Allen Martin

SAN LEANDRO (KPIX 5) “Leaders are Readers! Yes they are!” chanted a crowd of children at Northern Light School in San Leandro.

That rousing cheer kicked off the Leaders are Readers story hour. Leaders Are Readers, or LARS, pairs elementary school students with adult community leaders who read to them. The organization is the brainchild of Mykah Montgomery.

“Being able to tell a story and hear a story, that’s all part of the reading experience for me,” explained Montgomery.

But reading is just part of the experience. Montgomery says she also wants students to feel empowered and embraced by their entire community. So a local high school Color Guard opens and closes each LARS event.

And each Leader introduces themselves to students before the reading begins. Adult participants like Amber Childress are impressed.

“The group that was here today was amazing, folks from all different fields with different jobs, some interesting jobs,” explained Childress. “I think it is really important that students see the options that are available.”

Students like third grader Niko agree, and say they see the adults who read to them as role models for their future success.

“They have a lot of jobs,” explained Niko. “And I might get a lot of jobs when I grow up.”

Teacher Tracy Miller says her students love the book readings because it shows them the community cares about their futures.

“They are seeing other people who are excited about reading and who are encouraging them to read. It’s not just their teachers telling them. It’s not just their parents who are telling them,” said Miller. “But it’s people from the community who are showing them that they too are excited about it and they too care about them.”

Montgomery ends each event with a reading of her own. In its three years, LARS has reached 600 Bay Area kids, and given away nearly 200 books. Her goal she says, is simple:

“To let them know that they are special,’ said Montgomery. “They have a voice, and they should always stand on that.”

Montgomery also writes books given away at LARS events, and says she draws on stories about her own daughter for inspiration. LARS is always looking for donations, and for community members who are interested in reading to the kids.

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