Kansas City woman behind successful literacy program celebrated - KCTV5 News

Kansas City woman behind successful literacy program celebrated

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A metro woman who has been fighting for kids is now fighting for her life. But Friday night she got to see how her legacy will carry on.

The kids in the Kansas City metro classrooms get reading lessons from their regular teachers. But when the Lead to Read people show up, it's like an in-house fieldtrip, a change of pace to celebrate.

"They develop personal relationships. Each child has his or her own reader and they look forward to that," Phillips Elementary Principal Deloris Brown said.

Brown was among those honoring the program's founder Friday night.

Jean Rundle wasn't expecting the honor, but she also wasn't expecting the program to grow so quickly in two years. The group, called Lead to Read, began with 30 volunteers. It's already up to 200 and reaching seven elementary classrooms in five urban core schools.

Her husband said the growth came in part from a model that uses the school day to make volunteering a commitment that won't cut into family time.

"If you take 30 lunch hours a year, you can really make a significant difference in a kid, because they can learn to love to read and also, along the way, improve their reading scores," Lynn Rundle, Jean's husband and the co-founder of Lead to Read, said.

He said students who participated last year at Wendell Phillips Elementary increased their reading scores by an average of 24 percent from September to May.

The celebration of hitting 200 is bittersweet though because there's no telling how much longer Jean Rundle's mission will be in her hands.

"She has heart failure and it's caused by radiation when she had Hodgkin's Disease when she was 16 years old. So that's been haunting her for a long time, but this last year it's really made a significant turn for the worse," Lynn Rundle said.

So the couple hopes the numbers will continue to grow and there will be more volunteers to teach more kids and keep Jean Rundle's vision alive long after she's gone.

"This is an opportunity for her vision to start Lead to Read, to live on a long time after we're both gone," Lynn Rundle said.

It's not just reading skills the volunteers provide. Brown said having someone come into the student's lives and then keep coming back every week with no ulterior motive itself is truly special for a lot of the kids.

If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up online. Click here for a link.

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