By Denise Gary
Photos by Robert Gary, Shelby McBride, and Denise Gary


I thought the presentation by Steven Riley for our kindergarten students was outstanding! Kindergarten is a hard age to keep engaged, and he had our 150 kindergarteners engaged and enjoying themselves throughout the presentation. What’s even more amazing is that he incorporated teaching standards for literature while entertaining our kids. I couldn’t recommend this presentation more highly. —Margaret Codina, Reading Interventionist, J. B. Sutton Elementary School, Phoenix, Arizona

Just before Winter Break, Kids Need to Read wanted to inspire participating READ Together students at six area schools to spend time reading during the holidays. To KNTR, that meant it was time to bring the magic of author, illustrator and Advisory Council Member Steven Riley to town! Mr. Riley’s Build-a-Book program for KNTR is truly a unique and entertaining approach to creating story.





All of us at Kids Need to Read never tire of watching Mr. Riley engage with children, eliciting laugh after laugh from them and their teachers.





Best of all is watching the revelation of how writing and illustrating comes together by program’s end, with students suddenly realizing they are quite capable of creating wonderfully imaginative tales themselves. It is an extraordinary program!



Participating students were given signed hardcover copies of Little Ty Cooney and the Grand Canyon Tour Company and Highlights High Five magazines to keep and read with their families over the holidays.




Each teacher was gifted with a uKloo Early Reader Treasure Hunt Game as a supplemental literacy tool.


Children who had not received reading buddies earlier in the year received their new friends after the program.


Some of the children were so surprised, they would ask, “We get to keep these?!”



They left overjoyed … and so did we! There is nothing better than seeing kids turned onto reading, writing, and illustrating!


We sincerely thank Mr. Steven Riley for volunteering his time to KNTR and the children, Highlights for Children for donating their terrific magazines to our programs, uKloo Kids Inc. for working with KNTR to provide their award-winning games, our generous reading buddy donors, and everyone who has provided support to the READ Together program! Thanks also to the schools who graciously hosted Kids Need to Read and Mr. Riley at their campuses,  and their lovely students: Children First Academy Phoenix, Guerrero Elementary School, J. B. Sutton Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School, Mesa Arts Academy, and Palomino Primary School. It was an honor to serve.


Just wanted to thank you for the wonderful assembly and gifts for the students. Everyone LOVED Steven Riley and the kids were so excited to get the books, magazines and buddies! The teachers liked the game as well. Your generosity is appreciated! —Julie Kautenburger, Reading Specialist, Palomino Primary School, Phoenix, Arizona

The presentation from Kids Need to Read was outstanding. Students were engaged in learning and were excited about meeting an author. Greatly appreciate KNTR for bringing in Steven Riley to present to our school. Students enhanced their learning about what an author and an illustrator does and learned it through a fun and engaging way. Steven Riley is an amazing author/illustrator and my students loved the story Little Ty Cooney and the Grand Canyon Tour Company. It’s heartwarming seeing my students excited about reading to their new reading buddies. —Katherine Knight, Teacher, J. B. Sutton Elementary School, Phoenix, Arizona

My whole class was excited to share with me that they met a real life “author and illustrator”; they all showed me their books and couldn’t stop smiling. —Della Guzman, Teacher, J. B. Sutton Elementary School, Phoenix, Arizona

Thank you for the entertaining assembly and for giving my students a signed book, magazine, reading buddy, and for our class a poster and game! We enjoyed it. —Sherri Watson, Teacher, Palomino Primary School, Phoenix, Arizona

 I was very impressed with our guest speaker. I felt it was age appropriate. He used different visuals (dance, drawing, singing), TPR actions and humor to encourage student engagement.… Since Wednesday I have used “What is the theme of a book? It is what the story is about,” and my students wave their hands up and down…. Thank you for organizing this event! —Linda Marlowe, Teacher, J. B. Sutton Elementary School, Phoenix, Arizona

READ Together Contributors

Cardinals Charities
Cox Charities
Eileen Duggan Memorial
Employees Community Fund of Boeing Arizona
Fiesta Bowl Charities
Travis Hanson, Author/Illustrator
Highlights for Children
John F. Long Foundation
Kathy and Jerry Wood Foundation
Mesa Host Lions Club
Mesa United Way
Kim Oshiro, Author


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