KU leaders promote early literacy at Portland event

Last Friday night was a major event on the Knowledge Universe calendar: the annual Start Making A Reader Today (SMART) gala. As the presenting sponsor for the third consecutive year, KU leaders took to the state and talked about the importance of early literacy and their personal connections to the program.

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Liz Large, KU general counsel, reads with a Portland-area public school student as a SMART volunteer.

The gala kicked off with a made-by-KU video about Tom Wyatt looking for a book to read to children at SMART. Tom ultimately found Pete the Cat and took the stage at the Portland Art Museum to talk about KU’s commitment to SMART, and about how early literacy is a core component of KU brands. Tom handed the mike off to General Counsel Liz Large, who thanked all those who made the event happen and gave a shout-out to the dozens of KU SMART readers. Liz, who SMART’s board chair, has been a volunteer reader in the program for several years.

“Because of our shared mission and the fact that so many employees are personally connected to the organization, SMART is a community partner that is particularly close to our hearts at KU,” said David Roy, senior director of corporate social responsibility. “Literacy, mentoring, developing young minds, and supporting the communities where we work — this is a partnership that we are extremely proud of.”

The event was an enormous success, raising $470,000 for SMART programming throughout Oregon.

SMART pairs community volunteers with children in prekindergarten to third grade classes throughout Oregon for one hour of shared reading time per week during the school year. SMART volunteers not only teach children how to read aloud, but they help young students build their literacy skills and self-confidence. More than 200 KU employees have volunteered as SMART readers throughout the years.

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