Meet Our Reading Heroes

Kiwanis Club of South Philadelphia

Club members Matthew Adams and Monique Smaller-Rush

With more than 60,000 members worldwide, Kiwanis International has built a dedicated community of volunteers striving to improve the lives of children one community at a time. Right here in Philadelphia, the Kiwanis Club of South Philadelphia is taking tremendous steps to make sure the children of our city become great readers, one laundromat at a time. At various laundromats around the city, Kiwanis of South Philadelphia hosts and maintains Book Corners where children can come to read and pick up a book they may like. With a steady stream of books donated by Scholastic, and members who read to the children from time to time, the club is doing phenomenal work in helping the children of our city become great readers!

Speaking to members Matthew Adams and Monique Smaller-Rush – President and President-Elect respectively – each praised the efforts of the club to make sure children become fantastic readers. For both, membership with the club is more than just professional obligation; instead, it is a passion borne from a desire to help others.

As an undergrad at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, Matthew joined up with a local charity helping children to learn how to read. Ending up in Philadelphia, Matthew saw a chance to get involved with the club because it focused on building up Book Corners, as well as working to help those in the neighborhood.

Much like Matthew, Monique has always focused on helping children to read. Originally wanting to help kids become great readers, Monique originally started out wanting to become a teacher. Instead, working as a social worker, Monique has always found herself drawn to continue volunteering and helping others.

Join us in celebrating the Kiwanis Club of South Philadelphia for all the work they do in helping the children of our city learn how to read. It’s because of organizations like them, as well as the fantastic people who carry out the work of the club, that our children are becoming great readers! Congratulations!

Keith Wilson

Each of us goes through a time in our lives in which we struggle. For many, this time is normally the point in which we find what we’re made of, what we care about, what we want. For Keith Wilson, this moment came during his time working in a psychiatric hospital. Like those he saw every day, Keith knew he had been given privilege enough that he needed to do something to help those around him.

Graduating with a degree in psychology from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Keith became a teacher because he was motivated by a sense of community. Wanting to spread that sense of community, Keith teaches his students that education is the foundation of society. That the most important thing is not to teach just to give the answers, but to teach so that his students aren’t dependent on anything, that they believe in themselves.

In addition to teaching, Keith is also a published author. With two books currently released, he is doing more and more every day to further literacy here in the city of Philadelphia! Click Here and Here for more information for his work!

Furthermore, along with his approach inside the classroom, Keith has proven himself steadfast in his mission to education outside as well. Over the summer, Keith would take his two daughters, along with his niece and nephew, to the library every day for them to pick out four books apiece. With each trip, their love of reading grew until, eventually, they were clamoring to go and pick out new books.

With this in mind, please join us in celebrating our new Reading Hero! Congratulations Keith! You deserve it!

Joyce Kemmler

Retiring after 24 years of teaching, most of us would probably book a one-way ticket to an extended vacation; however, our newest Reading Hero did the opposite. Instead of taking some well-deserved time off, Ms. Joyce Kemmler decided to continue her work in helping our city’s children learn to read.

Volunteering every day at the William M. Meredith School in Queen Village, Ms. Kemmler is known for her patience while helping children who may be delayed or struggling with reading. Kind and patient, Ms. Kemmler has instilled a love of reading in countless children due to her steadfast support and unwavering belief that everyone can learn how to read. When asked what motivates her continued work she simply states: “I believe that everyone can succeed.”

Join us in celebrating Ms. Kemmler’s continued work and success in educating the children of our city. Congratulations! You are a true Reading Hero!


Joshua Ortiz


Meet our new Reading Hero, Joshua Ortiz! Joshua is a recent graduate from Temple University Klein College of Media and Communications. He was nominated by Patty Fox for his work as a reading mentor in her second grade classroom at Alain Locke School, a West Philadelphia K-8 public school. As a reading mentor for the Social Emotional Awareness Community Art Program (SEAC), Joshua volunteered twice a week leading small group reading sessions, facilitating classroom book discussions, and helping new mentors get settled into the SEAC program. Way to go Joshua! 

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

GCCA has long supported the Henry C. Lea School, a K-8 public school located in West Philadelphia. Seven years ago, when members learned that some first-graders were falling behind in reading, they recruited volunteers to commit to coming into the classroom once a week to read with students. Since then, the program has expanded to include grades second through fourth.

Many of the GCCA members see supporting Lea’s students as a way of giving back to their community. Others 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 are doing amazing work.

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



Michelle Noland 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.

Tanisha Dennis




Tanisha 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!


Chris Coleman




Chris 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!