United Way to celebrate reading with help of AT&T Pioneer Council and local celebrities

For Immediate Release

Donna Swaffar, Communications Manager
Phone: 785.228.5111         Mobile: 785.383.7451 (day of event only)
E-mail: donna.swaffar@unitedwaytopeka.org

United Way to celebrate reading with help of AT&T Pioneer Council and local celebrities

 TOPEKA, KS—Schools all across Shawnee County have special activities this week to honor the birthday of children’s book author Dr. Seuss. So it seemed the perfect time for United Way of Greater Topeka to help one of its community partners, AT&T Kansas, distribute more than 10,000 books purchased with help from its foundation. Ten schools will hold assemblies to celebrate reading and share a story with a special guest reader.

Over the next three days, students will hear Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go read by Kansas First Lady Mary Brownback, Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, Washburn University President Jerry Farley, Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones, Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Julie Ford and even the Poet Laureate of Kansas, Eric McHenry. (A full schedule of locations and readers is provided below.)

“This book project is a project of the AT&T Pioneer Kansas Chapter, said Jean Gonzalez, the chapter’s First Vice President. “The AT&T Kansas Chapter received a grant from the AT&T Foundation specifically for books that would go to students in Title I Schools. We chose United Way of Topeka because an AT&T Manager attended a United Way campaign meeting, and in talking with someone from United Way mentioned we had this overwhelming number of books to distribute.” Alongside AT&T volunteers, United Way staff helped organize, box and deliver the books to 27 Shawnee County schools.

United Way of Greater Topeka focuses heavily on education initiatives and in 2015 was recognized as a Pacesetter for that work by the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Reading is the most valuable and important part of every child’s early education. United Way works to help kids be ready to read and stay on track with their reading development through grade school. Studies show that children who read well by third grade ultimately have a better chance of graduating from high school and succeeding in a career.

Access to books is crucial for reading success, and many children from low-income families don’t have books of their own at home. AT&T’s donation is enough to provide one book for every student from Kindergarten through sixth grade at Shawnee County schools that are identified as Title I, or low-income, schools.

United Way of Greater Topeka CEO Miriam Krehbiel said United Way staff was energized about the opportunity to help so many kids in the community. “Because of our experience with our Junior Leader Reader (JLR) program, we know that just owning a book can be a big deal for many students,” she said. “AT&T’s generous investment lets us reach beyond our normal kindergarten and pre-K audience for JLR and give a book to every elementary student at these schools.”

Having an exciting book at home makes it more likely that a child will spend time reading. “For younger students, just 20 minutes a day reading aloud with an adult or role model strengthens relationships, encourages listening and language skills, promotes attention and curiosity, and establishes a strong reading foundation, Krehbiel said. “We ask the children to share their books at home, whether they are reading to someone or having someone read to them.”

Engaging all the school districts for this multi-day event could have proved challenging, but all the schools and their administrators readily joined. “We’re proud to be part of this event that highlights the importance of literacy, said Mike Mathes, Superintendent of the Seaman School District. “We want all of our kids to enjoy reading and become lifelong readers—our teachers and librarians play an important role in making that happen.”

“There’s just something special about a kid and a book,” Mathes said. “You can almost see the doors opening for them.”

 Scheduled assemblies and guest readers


Day Start Time School Address Guest Reader

March 2

8:30am Quincy Elementary 1500 NE Quincy St

Topeka, KS

Dr. Julie Ford

Topeka Public Schools

10:00am Lowman Hill Elementary 1101 SW Garfield Ave.

Topeka, KS

Mary Brownback

First Lady of Kansas

2:15pm Rossville Elementary 312 E Pottawatomie St.

Rossville, KS, 66533

Sheriff Herman Jones

Shawnee County

3:00pm Tecumseh South Elementary 3346 SE Tecumseh Rd

Tecumseh, KS 66542

Chief James Brown

Topeka Police Department


March 3

9:00am Auburn Elementary 810 Commercial St.

Auburn, KS 66402

Mike Scott


AT&T Kansas

1:00pm Ross Elementary 1400 SE 34th St.

Topeka, KS

Eric McHenry

Poet Laureate of Kansas

1:30pm Highland Park Central


2717 SE Illinois Ave.

Topeka, KS

Dr. Jerry Farley


Washburn University


March 4

8:45am Rochester Elementary 3421 NW Rochester Rd.

Topeka, KS

Lynn Jenkins


Kansas 2nd District

9:25am State Street Elementary 500 NE Sumner St.

Topeka, KS

Melissa Brunner

WIBW TV Anchor

1:30pm Meadows Elementary 201 SW Clay St.

Topeka, KS

Mayor Larry Wolgast

City of Topeka



AT&T Pioneers are a diverse network of current and retired telecommunications employees dedicated to volunteering in our communities. Because AT&T Pioneers believe that reading is fundamental, we have partnered with AT&T Foundation and United Way of Greater Topeka to bring students a book of their own.


United Way brings together people, companies and nonprofits to create positive sustainable change in our community. By focusing on education, income and health, we help more children graduate and get stable jobs, help families become financially stable and improve the overall health of our community. United Way remains dedicated to Basic Needs including food, shelter, rent and utilities, health and prescription access and safety from domestic violence.


For more than 80 years United Way of Greater Topeka has been improving and changing lives. Since 1980, United Way has invested more than $110 million into the community.