Read Aloud Delaware’s new Executive Director James Spadola brings a unique personal perspective to his new role.
“I have a long history of working with kids in both law enforcement and the nonprofit world,” said Spadola. “Read Aloud Delaware ties both worlds together, as those who are functionally illiterate often fall on the wrong side of law enforcement.”
Read Aloud Delaware’s mission is to ensure that each preschool child in Delaware is regularly read to one-on-one. “We are working to fight illiteracy and give every preschool child a reading start, regardless of their socioeconomic background or ZIP code so they can be successful in school and in life,” he said.
Spadola, who succeeds Mary Hirschbiel as executive director, brings 12 years of experience in public relations, marketing, community outreach and partnership creation to the position.
Formerly the public information officer for the Newark Police Department, Spadola most recently served as director of business development for Coded By Kids in Delaware, a nonprofit organization focused on providing underrepresented youth with technical education in software development and computer science.
Spadola said he now heads up a “small but mighty staff” that runs the statewide children’s literacy organization.
His goals for Read Aloud Delaware are clear. “We need to be well-known up and down the state in order to raise money, recruit volunteers and build our childcare partnerships and increase our impact on kids,” said Spadola.
Sussex County presents its own set of strengths and challenges, and Spadola credits former Sussex County Coordinator Lisa Coldiron and current Coordinator Stacy Penaranda with successfully building Read Aloud’s presence in the county. There are currently over 230 volunteers reading to children at 40 Head Start programs, preschools and elementary schools in Sussex County.
“Our volunteers are extremely passionate and dedicated to Read Aloud Delaware and the work we do,” he said. “About 70 percent of our volunteers in Sussex County have lived out of state within the past five years and are recently retired. So they bring a breadth of experience from their previous careers and are able to dedicate time to impacting kids while having a fulfilling experience.”
One volunteer recently told Spadola, “Volunteering with Read Aloud Delaware is the best part of my week.”
There are challenges for the program in Sussex County, as well. “The travel distance from one end of the county to the other side is considerable,” said Spadola “Our volunteers are mostly living near the beaches. We have a great need for volunteers living in western Sussex County.”
Spadola said another exciting challenge is nearly 30 percent of the children come from Spanish-speaking households, and there is also a burgeoning population that speaks Creole.
And there is one more challenge on its way. “Come summertime, there’s the beach traffic,” said Spadola.
For more information, go to www.readalouddelaware.org or contact the Sussex County office at 302-856-2527.