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Pittsburgh literacy effort recognized for good work |

Pittsburgh literacy effort recognized for good work

Chris Weeden
| Friday, February 14, 2014 1:00 p.m
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Weil Elemenary School kindergartners Aniya Washington, left, Tkyia Campbell, Hasson Phillips, Gary Lee III, Semaj Richardson and DeAndre Bratcher celebrate a $35,000 grant from the Citizens Charitable Foundation to Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
RBS Citizens Financial Group Executive Vice President Mark Latterner and Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh Executive Director Florri Ladov (right) talk about reading with Weil Elemenary School kindergartners on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

Being able to read comes with perks, according to a Pittsburgh kindergartner.

“You can read a story to your mommy or daddy,” said Tkyia Campbell, 6, at Weil Elementary School in the Hill District on Friday morning.

Tkyia is one of 18 kindergartners in teacher Mary Hopper’s classroom, which hosted a news conference to announce that the nonprofit group Reading is FUNdamental Pittsburgh had been named a “Champion in Action” for giving children from low-income neighborhoods free access to books and motivating them to develop a love of reading.

RIF Pittsburgh receives a $35,000 grant from the Citizens Charitable Foundation, as well as promotional and volunteer support from Champions in Action’s partners: Citizens Bank, WPXI-TV, Trib Total Media and Pittsburgh Cares.

RIF Pittsburgh’s two Storymobiles — libraries on wheels — visit 49 sites where there are high percentages of children from low-income households, said Florri Ladov, executive director. Weil Elementary is one of them.

“We wanted to be where there are boots on the ground,” said Beth Crow, spokeswoman for Citizens Bank.

Reading is FUNdamental also leads “Everybody Wins!” at Weil, an effort in which community volunteers read to second- and third-graders weekly. The nonprofit’s AmeriCorps volunteers also distribute books to kindergarten through fifth-grade students at the school three times a year, Principal Holly Ballard said.

RIF Pittsburgh will use the grant to buy books and provide other support, Ladov said.

Each year, RIF Pittsburgh provides more than 70,000 books to more than 20,000 children. Last year, its Storymobiles loaned nearly 12,000 books to more than 3,200 children and families, and donated 2,400 books at 40 community events across Pittsburgh, said Bryan Iams, vice president of RIF Pittsburgh’s board.

Champions in Action grants are given to small nonprofits to help support their community initiatives, Crow said.

Since its start in 2002, the program has awarded nearly $1 million in grants and promotional support to 34 Pittsburgh-area nonprofits.

The partnership with the Trib and WPXI provides needed visibility to small nonprofits, Crow said.

Chayona Randall, 27, was among several parents who visited their children in Hopper’s classroom Friday. She stresses the importance of reading to her son, Gary Lee III, 5, and they often read together at home.

“I don’t want him to just learn in school,” she said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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