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Loose in the School: APCo Readers, Gingerbread Man Unleashed on Hundreds of Schools

by on December 2, 2016

(Story by Jeri Matheney)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A gingerbread man running through the halls makes for an exciting day at school. So does another kind of visitor in the school – an Appalachian Power employee who’s come to read a story!

Almost 17,000 elementary students in West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee were treated to just such a visit on Nov. 17. The visits were part of Read to Me Day, an annual event in which employees volunteer to read to students at schools throughout the company’s West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee service territory.

This year, employees read the book, “The Gingerbread Man: Loose in the School,” by Laura Murray, a Virginia author. They then donated the book to the school library.

“It’s such a magical experience for kids to have someone come to their school just to read them a book. It’s so rewarding for our readers to witness that,” said [Charles Patton], Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer, and a volunteer reader at Weberwood Elementary in Charleston. “Our reason for devoting so much effort to Read to Me Day is to reach as many children as possible with the magic of a good story. Children who enjoy books will read more. Ultimately, they’ll be better readers and do better in school.

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“It’s always exciting to have a visitor in school,” Patton added. “And it’s certainly a big change from an ordinary day for our line mechanics, meter readers and call center representatives who volunteer to read. It makes for a memorable day for both the kids and the employees.”

This year, 314 readers read to students at 418 schools. First started in 2001, Read to Me Day coordinator Debby Pannell, corporate communications representative, estimates employees have read to more than 250,000 students and donated approximately 6,000 books over the 16 years of the program.

A social media hashtag, “RTMD2016,” helped schools and readers share their photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Dozens of photos were posted on Appalachian Power’s social media pages, plus photos from many more schools and readers were shared on the company’s pages. For a sample, go to Appalachian Power’s Facebook page, or on Facebook, search RTMD2016.

Usually, volunteer readers sport a new shirt with the Appalachian Power logo, given by the company in recognition of their volunteer effort. But this year, employees decided to instead put that money toward donations to libraries in flood-damaged areas of the state.

The Elk Valley and Clendenin branches of Kanawha County Library, the Clay County Library, the Walton Library in Roane County, and the Rainelle Library in Greenbrier County all received donations in the name of Appalachian Power readers. In all, the libraries received $8,000, which is designated to the children’s areas in each library.

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