It is the season of giving. I can’t tell you how much it meant for me to give to Read Aloud West Virginia. This would not have happened if I hadn’t been a guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. Her mother was a teacher, and grew up in West Virginia. We have a terrific connection. Kelly is a genuine giver.
This newsletter from Read Aloud West Virginia tells the story of me, back home. More importantly, it tells the story of Dollar General. The co-founder was functionally illiterate. It was his grandson who wanted to give to literacy in light of his grandfather, and founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
This is just like Dolly Parton! Her father could not read. She has been instrumental in giving books to children and her Imagination Library.
Appalachian roots are strong, from West Virginia to Tennessee. Giving is, too. I’m glad I brought some of that along with me when I moved to New England. Giving is everything.
Dollar General gives $50,000 in honor of longtime supporter Jennie Fitzkee
By Amanda Schwartz
When The Kelly Clarkson Show chose to celebrate preschool teacher Jennie Fitzkee — a West Virginia native and longtime Read Aloud WV supporter —Read Aloud’s Executive Director Dawn Miller was asked to video call in to the filming as a surprise.
“Anything for Jennie Fitzkee!” she replied.
Miller was excited to be part of recognizing a dedicated supporter and local literacy champion, but had no idea there was a surprise in store. Both Fitzkee and Miller were shocked and deeply touched by Dollar General’s announcement of a $50,000 gift to Read Aloud in honor of Fitzkee and World Teacher Day.
Fitzkee became involved with Read Aloud in 2012 after the passing of her childhood friend, Read Aloud champion Candy Galyean. Fitzkee (born Jennie Lively Lytton) grew up with Galyean in Huntington, but moved to Groton, Mass., where she has been a preschool teacher for almost 40 years. When her sister sent Galyeans’s obituary in 2012, Fitzkee saw it suggested donations to Read Aloud West Virginia.
“I thought, ‘This has got to be someplace else!’” Fitzkee recalled. “I just can’t believe this! I never knew about this wonderful place.”
Fitzkee called and spoke with Read Aloud founder and then Executive Director Mary Kay Bond. They had much in common, including an inspiration, Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, first published in 1979.
Eager to give back to her home state and support her friend’s legacy, Fitzkee began collecting books. She and her students and community gathered so many she and husband Steve Fitzkee rented a truck and drove them all the way from Groton, Mass. to Charleston.
After that momentous donation, Fitzkee has continued to support Read Aloud, nurtures readers through her blog “A Teacher’s Reflections,” and has contributed to this newsletter.
“This gift means so much to us,” said Executive Director Dawn Miller. “It is an acknowledgment of the lifelong value of our work to help children develop an intrinsic motivation to read, and it will help Read Aloud to stay strong and flexible, of course.
“But with this gift the Dollar General Literacy Foundation also recognizes the efforts of every volunteer, every teacher, every school coordinator, every principal, every donor — every friend of Read Aloud who has contributed to the effort to help children discover joy in reading,” she said.
“On top of all that, we are touched and honored to still be part of remembering Candy Galyean, who even now plays such an important role in bringing us together in this cause.”
Over the past 28 years, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has donated more than $203 million to provide funding and resources to support literacy advancement and has helped more than 14.8 million individuals learn to read. In both 2020 and 2021, they granted funds to Read Aloud to support shipments of self-chosen books to low-income children across the Mountain state, keeping them reading through the pandemic and beyond.
Dollar General’s co-founder, J.L. Turner, was functionally illiterate and never completed a formal education. In 1993, J.L.’s grandson, Cal Turner, Jr., founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to honor him and support others’ educational journeys.
Dollar General and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s $4.5 million investment to help students, teachers, and nonprofit organizations working to support and improve youth literacy across the country includes more than $3 million in youth literacy grants from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and a new $1.45 million partnership with education nonprofit Donors Choose.
To watch the announcement and Fitzkee’s heartwarming reaction, click here.