Lead to Read: Making a difference in the classroom + beyond

Kim Klosak | Aug 13, 2018 Kim Klosak 08/13/18

At SMG, we pride ourselves on innovation and strive to be constantly curious, ask questions, and push boundaries. The only way we can do this is to never settle for what we already know but to always keep learning. This quest for constant growth made our partnership with Lead to Read a no-brainer. What better way to spread our love of learning than to spend time reading with kids eager to learn?


We began volunteering with Lead to Read in 2015. Today, about 25 SMG employees spend their Tuesday lunch hour at Primitivo Garcia Elementary reading with second graders. The trade-off is beyond rewarding. Here are 3 benefits of becoming involved with the Lead to Read program:

Positively impacting a child’s education—and life

Studies show that kids who can’t read proficiently by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to eventually drop out of school. Extracurricular reading is vital during this point in a student’s life—when one goes from learning to read to reading to learn. Unfortunately, not every child gets the opportunity to read outside of school and really hone their skills, so any chance a child can get to practice reading is helpful.


Lead to Read gives students the opportunity to not just practice reading, but to enjoy it. When the children see their Readers walk through the door, there is a buzz of excitement. They can’t wait to dig into the books their teacher selected for them. And parents are noticing the difference it makes. Several mention Lead to Read in parent-teacher conferences, attributing their child’s increased interest and skill in reading to the program.

Understanding the importance of accountability

Lead to Read can be an attractive volunteer opportunity for people who don’t have a ton of extra time on their hands. The 30-minute commitment each week requires no prep work and the classroom teacher even assigns the book. So Readers just have to show up. But this step is so important. The students are counting on us to be there. I’ve seen actual tears when a Reader can’t make it and let me tell you, it’s not fun for anybody.


Within that sense of accountability, we build a relationship with our students. We’re paired with the same child for the entire school year and really get to know one another. Sure, reading is a big part of our time together. But so is the bond we create. We’re proving to these kids that we care enough to show up for them. It means so much more to them than you can imagine.

Establishing company camaraderie

Along with the connection we develop with our students comes a similar sense of bonding with our coworkers. It’s nice to have the same group of us head to the school together each week. These are associates we may not interact with on a regular basis, and Lead to Read gives us the opportunity to connect outside the office.

Company culture is very important at SMG and we very much believe in being “better together.” Our time spent with Lead to Read is just one of many opportunities we have to bond with team members and create a positive impact in the community.

Interested in being a Reader?

Lead to Read is up to 1,100 Readers with a reach of 51 classrooms. Their goal is to get one Reader for each elementary student in the urban core—which is about 5,000! If you have 30 minutes of your week to spare, consider becoming a Reader. Visit leadtoreadkc.org for more.

Kim Klosak | VP, Human Resources

Customer Experience Update