BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Kid Konnections is a program unique to Blount County Schools helping kids find a passion for reading. 

Community volunteers are working with elementary students who need an extra boost in their reading skills. 

Jim Warner has been volunteering to read with students for 15 years. He has spent a number of those years mentoring at Fairview Elementary School in Maryville. 

“I know that I’m making progress and I’m making a difference with those kids,” Warner said. 

Volunteers spend one hour a week helping students gain the literacy skills and confidence that will empower their learning. 

“I see from the very beginning to the middle to the end how much they improve in their reading skills, in their confidence in the bond that we form between us, and it’s just been thrilling to see that,” said Nancy Sentell, a volunteer reader. 

There are 70 volunteers assigned to elementary schools in the county to practice reading techniques like echoing and sounding out words. 

“I’m coaching them and sounding out words and reading and trying to instill in them the joy of reading because if you cannot read you won’t get anywhere in life,” Warner said. 

School coordinators match the mentors with students who need extra time to build their reading skills and benefit from connecting one-on-one with an adult. 

Teachers say having a listening ear and someone to hold book discussions brings the students so much joy that they cannot wait for their next turn to read. 

Patsy Russell got involved with the program 10 years ago through Maryville Kiwanis. She said the relationships she has built with young readers are priceless. 

“We read every week and she at Christmas brought me a present that she had paid for. She said I bought this myself because I’m so happy to read now and so that’s what really has kept me being a reading mentor,” Russell said. 

To volunteer contact Linda Carraway, coordinator of Kid Konnections for Blount County Schools to schedule a training. Carraway’s email is or 865-984-1212, ext. 54-2267.