Meet Our Reading Heroes

Garden Court Community Association (GCCA)

Caption (l. to r.): Back Row: Libby Rosof, Barbara Zeigler, Martha Ledger, Sue Irish, Megin Myers, Linda Visconti, Anurag Sagar Front Row: Brenda Bonhomme, Lynn Major, Marshall Ledger

Congratulations to our newest Reading Heroes, the Garden Court Community Association (GCCA) Reading Volunteers!

GCCA has long supported the Henry C. Lea School, a K-8 public school in its West Philly neighborhood. Seven years ago, when members learned that some first-grade students were falling behind in reading, they organized volunteers to read one-on-one with these children during school hours. Volunteers signed on for one session a week for the entire school year, a commitment that continues to the present.

The program grew, in some years helping students in 1st through 4th grades. But its emphasis has always been on supporting new readers. One goal is to bring students to grade level, which mostly happens, but the volunteers also hope to foster a love of reading. They encourage students to select books that interest them and also help them find characters that they can relate to.

Many of the current group of 18 see supporting Lea’s students as a way of caring for their community. Others explain that they have a background in literature and want to share their passion for reading.  One volunteer attended Lea as a child and feels it is her duty to come back and support it as an adult. However varied their motivations, they all have done amazing work to encourage reading at Lea, and we wish them the best as they continue their volunteer role.

Wanda Steward

Meet our new featured Reading Hero, Wanda Steward. Wanda made up stories to her children at bedtime since she lacked the ability to read. She took the initiative to reach out to the Office of Adult Education (OAE), then began classes with Adults Can Learn to Read. Adults Can Learn to Read is an OAE partner provider that offers adult basic education classes in the Kingsessing Library. There she learned the skills she used to write her book, The Little Chicken Named Pong Pong. Project Literacy helped it to get published. British actor, Idris Elba found out about Wanda’s book through Project Literacy and read her story to kids all over the world on YouTube to show his appreciation. Wanda Stewart is a true inspiration, she encourages other adults that it is never too late to learn to read and write.

To learn more about Project Literacy visit their website.

To hear Idris Elba read The Chicken Little name Pong Pong visit the YouTube video.

Michelle Noland
Meet our new Reading Hero Michelle Noland! She grew up going to the Parkway Central Library branch. It was her backyard and she loved reading everyday. She would sit in the hallway and read. Today, she is a reading hero on her block. She helps kids read for school and brings them lunch! She makes sure to knock on every door to make sure the kids come out and read.


Chris Coleman

Meet our new Reading Hero Chris Coleman! Coleman grew up reading books and now writes his own.Two of his books are called the Beta Crew: Saving Kodon and the Adventures with Jade (the microphone of friendship). His books feature kids from diverse backgrounds as superheroes because he wants all kids to be excited by what they’re reading and learning. He has already made his books into mobile apps, music sound tracks and videos!


Tanisha Dennis

Meet our new featured reading hero Tanisha who has spent the last two years hosting the Youth Literacy Books and Breakfast in North Philly. Meeting every last Saturday of each month the event consists of a hot breakfast, learning about the theme of the day, and participating in four different workshops. Tanisha’s long-term goal is to host the Books and Breakfast event every Saturday in 10 different neighbors. Way to go, Tanisha!


Christine Dolle

Let’s give Reading Hero Christine Dolle a huge high five! After moving to the city, she traveled around Philadelphia and did book readings, using the children’s book Every Breath We Take, to raise awareness about air pollution. What’s even more amazing? Her 6-year-old twins have gone with her to more than half of these book readings. The book readings have such a huge impact on the kids that one day her son decided to write a letter “to the Earth”! Great job Christine! You truly embody our slogan, “Your child’s love of reading begins with you!”


Angel Walker

Angel Walker has been reading since the age of four and has loved reading ever since! In fact, she loves reading so much that she has gotten her entire family excited about reading – down to her cat Diesel! She loves helping her younger siblings get motivated about reading. Angel does so by playing “school”, and she makes sure that her “students” are always in reading class. Good job Angel!


Pennsylvania SPCA

The Pennsylvania SPCA has spent 150 years of educating children about animal advocacy through literacy, human education, and community outreach. The Pennsylvania SPCA – Humane Education has recently announced that its Cat Tales Reading Program is back for another summer! The program provides a fun way for students to practice their reading skills with a non-judgmental audience (cats!). The cats benefit too, by becoming more socialized with people, ultimately helping them find forever families! It’s a win-win for everyone! Thanks Pennsylvania SPCA!


Brent Johnstone

Hats off to this author and READING HERO – Brent Johnstone! After hiding his dyslexia for many years, he has made it his mission to reach out and help kids who struggle with reading. Two causes that are near to his heart are literacy and fatherhood. In fact, these two topics were the driving forces behind his book “52 Simple and Fun Activities for Dads and Kids”. Each activity includes a description about why the idea is important and an area to capture that activity with a picture. According to Mr. Johnstone, the purpose of this book is to make it as easy as possible for fathers to be able to spend time with their kids. “There is no reason not to be able to spend time with your child.” In addition, he is already working on his next book, “Khalil Was Excited About Going to School”. Keep up the good work Brent!


The Zameska Family

Say hello to our third Reading Hero! Talk about a family that cares about reading! Meet the Zameskas! This inspirational family started a non-profit called Helping Heroes. With the support of Friends Select Schools, they collected over 1200 books to donate to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Rebecca Rosen Zameska, the mother, is teaching her children and her community the importance of literacy and caring for others! Thank you Zameska family for your time and dedication to the children of Philadelphia!


Mikal Watson

How long have you been a fan of reading? Our 17-year-old Reading Hero, Mikal Watson, found his love for reading when he was only two years old! He would mimic his older cousin as she read homework aloud. His appreciation for literature encouraged him to volunteer at the Nicetown/Tioga branch where the librarians even offered him a part-time job. He is now a current senior at Crefeld High School looking to strengthen his love for people by pursuing his degree in psychology. You’re off to great places Mikal!


Iyonna Rozier

Being a hero has no age limit! This is why Iyonna Rozier made it her mission to support children’s literacy in North Philadelphia. This past summer, this 11-year-old started reading aloud to children on her front lawn to encourage their reading and writing skills. She even donated her personal supply of books after she had finished reading them. She now volunteers with the Nicetown/Tioga Free Library branch. Iyonna aspires to be a neonatologist when she grows up. Congrats Iyonna! Continue to be an inspiration, and keep striving for success!


Dwayne Walker

Meet Dwayne Walker, our reading hero who works in West Philadelphia for Drexel University’s Action for Early Learning (AFEL) and launched its Read to Succeed Book Club! AFEL’s Read to Succeed Book Club strives to support children’s literacy as early as possible and tries to educate parents on the importance of early child development and education. Thanks for all of your hard work, Dwayne!