CEO Update February 2016

Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy, ‘heroes’ for 18 years

In 2016, we celebrate the Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy’s 18th year and its wonderful efforts to promote literacy in our community.  RJCL has developed a cadre of devoted literacy volunteers who share at least one-hour a week to teach children to improve their reading skills.

Last year, 40 literacy volunteers served as both tutors and mentors to students at Swansboro Elementary School in Richmond.

JCFR has been proud to work with RJCL all these years and to serve as an entry point to communal life for many volunteers through this social action program.

In 2004, RJCL was dubbed the “Mentoring Program of the Year.” Now in its 18th year at Swansboro/Richmond Public Schools we think we still rank as one of Richmond’s best mentoring programs.

Just talk to Gladys D. Wilder, retired  Library Media Specialist at Swansboro Elementary School who worked with our RJCL volunteer mentors for 10 years and calls them “super heroes.”

She explained. “The Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy and I partnered to increase student exposure to literature. It was our belief and hope, that if the children had more reading opportunities, then their desire to read and their love for reading would increase. What made Swansboro atypical and the envy of many local schools was our super heroes: The Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy.”

She continued, “ By the end of my first year as Library/Media Specialist, I was familiar with many of the friendly faces of the coalition members. However, it was about midway through my second year that the members really began to reveal there were some quiet champions lurking behind those beautiful smiling faces.”

She added, “The RJCL was not satisfied to just allow the children to just walk up, take a book and go on their merry way. Oh no! Members of the coalition gathered with their mentee and the two of them read the book together.  Well, you may ask what about the kids who did not have a mentor? They created special arrangements to make sure every student in the school benefited from this literary gift. School-wide read alouds (where  members (and their friends) read one-on-one or in small groups with the children) were scheduled on monthly and sometimes bi-monthly basis.

“Special activities such as BookTastings, CakeWalks, Drop Everything and Read, Reading Challenges are just a few of the whirlwind of activities initiated by the coalition to engage the entire student body in reading. The results: test scores increased, Swansboro became identified as a school with an exemplary mentoring program, the children hankered for more books (and more challenging books) more reading activities, library circulation quadrupled.  Then, more volunteers came onboard to be mentors. Volunteers at other schools began to initiate many of the coalition reading strategies. Greater still,  because of the involvement of the coalition in one-on-one mentoring and the school-wide activities, Swansboro achieved full statewide accreditation for the first time and maintained full accreditation for several years to follow! Administrators and teachers also will attest to this fact.”

Mrs. Wilder saw first-hand the impact our mentors made on the children and continue to make.

Let me thank the past and current chairs Claudia Biegler, Miriam Davidow, Diane Hurwitz, Robin Jackson, Susan Meyers, Margo Shayne and Katy Yoffy. A special thanks to all our “super hero” volunteers over the 18 years who have spent time as mentors to so many children. 

If you are interested in being a mentor, contact the Federation’s Diane Munsey at (804) 545-8654 or

May we go from strength to strength in building our community in Richmond.

As always, contact me at (804) 545-8622 or email


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