CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The annual Read-A-Palooza fundraiser for Read Aloud West Virginia took place on Thursday evening and had a special speaker.

WVU Football Coach Neal Brown spoke to dozens about his passion for reading, teamwork and his football team during the event at the University of Charleston for a Read Aloud campaign called “Join Team Read.”

Amanda Schwartz with Read Aloud West Virginia said having Brown at the event was special because it helps with that campaign that looks to value reading as much as young children value sports, especially boys.

“Boys are traditionally aren’t as engaged in books as girls are,” she said. “The research is showing that they are less likely to be regular readers at a young age but they are likely to be interested in sports.

“Whenever we are able to pull things together to make a child more interested in reading and more motivated to read, that is something we are passionate about.”

Brown highlighted three things for the audience to take from the event to provide to children: a model for them, provide resources for reading and motivation to read.

Schwartz said ReadAloud West Virginia has distributed over 9,000 books so far this year to the organization’s 32 county chapters.

The event is to raise money for the organization to keep literacy programs in West Virginia going, distribute more books and drive their campaign.

“A lot of the children don’t have access to books at home, they don’t have parents who are reading to them,” Schwartz said.

“What Read Aloud does is we make sure that parents know how important it is to read to their children from birth and we make sure they have access to high-interest reading material so that the kids are motivated to read.”

Read Aloud serves children from birth to 18 years of age but Schwartz said most of their volunteers read in elementary schools.

She encouraged anyone interested in becoming a Read Aloud volunteer in the schools to contact them.