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John F. Germany keeps on giving through the Read to Dream Initiative

Holiday Heroes: Community organizations and volunteers foster love of reading in Read to Dream initiative

December 13, 2016

Hillsborough County Public Schools is proudly partnering with the Hillsborough County Bar Association (HCBA), Hillsborough County Public Library, and the Germany family in an exciting new initiative called Read to Dream that fosters a love of reading in elementary school children.

In September 2016, the Read to Dream initiative launched at B. T. Washington Elementary School.  After school on a weekly basis, as part of the HOST program, the program utilized community volunteers from HCBA and the Friends of the Library to place caring and engaged readers and mentors in positive group reading sessions with children in at-risk or under-served communities; to help support students’ vocabulary and comprehension development.  Throughout the program, participating students receive a learning buddy (stuffed animal), three books, and a book bag.

Kendyl Tash, one of the Attorney Volunteers at Holland & Knight LLP, shares her first experience with the children at Booker T. Washington. Tash describes how she walked in, armed with lollipops, and was greeted by bright-eyed little bodies who anxiously awaited their time with her as she read “Peeny Butter Fudge” written by Toni Morrison. Tash shares, “I left that afternoon with hugs from my new friends and a new definition of “stressful”.  I draw strength from their warmth and enthusiasm, and I'm profoundly grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them.” Fellow attorney, Anthony Palermo, also from Holland & Knight LLP, shared, “John F. Germany was a mentor and friend.  By participating in this program in his honor, I watched the bright minds of tomorrow get excited about reading.  I know it would have made him happy beyond measure, and it moved me greatly.  I will always cherish the experience.”

Based on the success of the program at B.T. Washington - Just Elementary and West Tampa Elementary also started offering the Read to Dream program. Kimberly Keenan, Supervisor of Elementary Reading and Language added, “We give thanks to all of our partners, especially our partners in HOST who have gone above and beyond to provide support to the success of this program.”  Keenan goes on to confirm that there are future plans to expand the program in January 2017 at Edison and Graham Elementary.

Read to Dream was the vision of the late John F. Germany, a student during the depression years in Hillsborough County Public Schools, who graduated from Plant City High School in 1940.  Germany was an attorney, judge, founding member of the Holland & Knight law firm, leader in the development of the downtown Tampa library which bears his name, and a lifelong reader and dreamer.  Germany always credited his long and fine career and love of reading, to a gift of a book which he received at a young age.  To learn more about the Read to Dream initiative and the participating law firms visit readtodream.org

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