Kyla Johnston, 18, of Columbia Falls, Montana, a senior at Columbia Falls High School, is dedicated to using her love of reading to promote the social and educational development of other students in her community. For Kyla’s independent study class this year, she had an opportunity to develop and execute her own community service project. Knowing that there were Spanish-speaking students at her school struggling to communicate with their teachers and classmates, she decided to create a bilingual story hour and homework help session for students just learning English “so that they feel welcome and supported,” she said. Kyla got right to work, building a curriculum and working with her school’s Spanish teacher to bring her idea to life. But when her venue fell through, she decided to take her reading initiative in another direction.
Kyla had heard through church about her neighboring town’s community dinners, which were attended by families with young children. “One of my favorite things as a child was being read to, and I would like to share this tradition with them,” she said. Kyla now attends the dinners each month and reads to the children after they’re done eating. She also brings them new books so they can add to or establish their own home libraries, and is working on raising money for more books and helping kids keep up with their reading in the summer. “I would also like to bring in a few younger high schoolers, in hopes that reading at community dinners will continue,” Kyla said.