Junior Leader Reader

Number of Books Distributed:
50,000 and counting!

This September, the Junior Leader Reader (JLR) program celebrated a milestone: 50,000 books distributed over the 12 years of the program. We were excited to welcome back JLR founder Ryan Yamka, who joined the preschoolers at Pine Ridge Prep for a special recognition and JLR reading on September 14.  Ryan even surprised us with a $1,000 donation to JLR! We can’t thank him enough for inspiring and supporting this crucial component of our education work.

JLR founder Ryan Yamka was the guest of honor at our September celebration marking the 50,000th book provided through the program he started in 2010.

Junior Leader Readers (JLR) was launched in 2010 by United Way of Greater Topeka’s Young Leaders Society. Through the generosity  of corporate or individual sponsorships, we purchase books for pre-k and kindergarten students in Shawnee County. Since its inception, JLR has given away more than 40,000 books.

Sheriff Herman Jones reads to students at the 30,000 book celebration

Former Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones was the celebrity reader when we celebrated the distribution of JLR’s 30,000th book in 2017.

The program started at Scott Magnet Elementary in Topeka, and the first book was sponsored by YLS member Ryan Yamka in memory of his father, Harry. In the program’s first year, nearly 100 kindergarten students participated in a special book reading and received a copy of the book Edward the Emu written by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clement.

Since the program’s start, Junior Leader Readers have distributed free books to kids who need them most. It is not uncommon to hear stories like this from teachers whose students receive the books:

I have been an educator for the past 12 years.  My career has been spent in Title 1 schools.  Many of my students have faced significant emotional and financial obstacles.  There has also been a large increase in the number of students who are now in foster homes.  Without the Junior Reader Leader program, many of my students would not have a book to call “their very own.” In fact, one of my students this year ran up to me and held the “Mouse’s First Spring” book, and said, “This is the very first book that belongs to ME” – then proceeded to give me a huge hug.

Thank you, United Way, for giving my students hope.  With your generosity, my students now have a book to love and cherish-at home!  You are truly making a difference in the lives of the children that I have the privilege to serve.

Topeka 501 Elementary Teacher

To get involved as a volunteer or inquire about how to participate as a sponsoring company, call (785) 228-5117.