President John D. Welty visits Lowell Elementary School (171 N. Poplar Ave.) on Friday, March 25, to read to pupils and help call attention to California State University, Fresno-based Fresno READS and acknowledge a donation by Barnes & Noble of more than 4,000 books.

At the event, which begins at 2 p.m., Welty will read to pupils from three first-grade classrooms.

Fresno READS is a grant-funded program launched in 1997 as part of the America Reads Challenge, a four-year national campaign that mobilized communities to promote literacy. The program sends university student-volunteers to Lowell, Vinland and Wolters Elementary schools and the S.M.I.L.E. Center in the Fresno Unified School District.

“The mission is to raise reading, math and academic abilities of elementary students through one-on-one tutoring by our Fresno State students,” said Fresno READS coordinator Shawna M. Bonaime.


The program recruits, trains, and places approximately 50 college students every academic year to work with children in kindergarten through sixth grade at the four program partner sites, she added. In the past 10 years, Fresno READS has tutored 3,183 children individually and another 4,870 in small groups. Fresno State students have put in a total of 157,447 hours with Fresno READS during that decade.The program, however, is in jeopardy because federal AmeriCorps VISTA funding for the coordinator runs out at the end of this school year, said Chris Fiorentino, director of Fresno State’s Jan and Bud Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning. The center coordinates the campus volunteer and community service projects. Federal work-study funds pay the student tutors, he added, and the university provides office space.

Having a coordinator for Fresno READS is critical not only to scheduling students, but also in seeking donations, such as the Barnes & Noble gift, Fiorentino said.

Every year, bookseller Barnes & Noble teams with local nonprofit organizations to meet their needs through a November-January Holiday Book Drive. This year, Barnes & Noble adopted Fresno READS and it became the No. 1 donation site on the West Coast.

“We’re getting the donated books in the hands of children who attend Fresno READS’ partner schools and participate in our community outreach and family engagement events,” said Bonaime. It’s part of a commitment to “helping grow the libraries of young children,” who are identified by Fresno Unified as socioeconomically disadvantaged.

For more information, please contact Bonaime at


Related links:

Fresno READS