WVPB Wins National Award For Community Engagement

Chris Oxley reads from the book, "Thank You, Omu!" in the award-winning video that he directed and produced for WVPB's Read For The Record educational initiative.

WVPB has won a national award for community engagement from the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA), which honores public media achievements nationwide. The award was presented during its 2021 NETA Conference and CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) Public Media Thought Leader Forum last week.

THANK YOU, OMU! read by the staff of West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The Community Engagement National Project Award was presented to WVPB virtually during The 52nd Annual Public Media Awards (PMAs). The winning initiative was a statewide education outreach program targeting early readers. WVPB employees, friends and volunteers – 200 people total – took one day, November 7, 2019, to read the same book to children in all 55 counties in West Virginia. They read “Thank You, Omu!” by Oge Mora as a part of Jumpstart’s international initiative, Read For The Record. WVPB also produced a companion video of employees reading the book against the colorful backdrop of the author’s illustrations.

Chuck Roberts, WVPB’s executive director, read to students at Mary C. Snow Elementary on the West Side of Charleston, West Virginia, that day. “This project is a great example of the power of community that we talk about all the time at WVPB,” Roberts said. “We are humbled that the folks at NETA recognize how important it is for us to give back to the community, whose support enables us to take part in initiatives like Read For The Record. Whenever we can have a positive impact on our littlest West Virginians, we know we’re on the right track. Congratulations to the entire WVPB team, our volunteers and all of the participants!”

WVPB netted a national community engagement award from NETA.

Chris Oxley
WVPB netted a national community engagement award from NETA.

The project was spearheaded by the WVPB’s Education and Production departments. More than 200 books were donated, and readings took place in 54 libraries, 53 schools, Head Start programs, home-school programs, after-school programs and day-care facilities across the Mountain State. In all, 5,181 children were read to that day, and the video was shared across WVPB’s television and social channels and with schools, classrooms and teachers, who shared it widely to promote literacy and further the project’s impact.

Kelly Griffith, WVPB’s Education Director and former teacher of more than 16 years, said children with strong literacy skills are more likely to succeed at every age. Reading to children supports that goal. “A love of reading can fuel a passion for learning that benefits children for years to come. I’m so proud we reached so many children across West Virginia,” Griffith said.

Chris Oxley produced the winning video. He’s a 22-year veteran director/producer at WVPB with a variety of productions under his belt. “As we all know, life can come at you quickly and sometimes with discouraging results. National recognition such as this, however, is an appreciated act of encouragement, which we all can use right now, and a testament to my generous colleagues who gave their talents both on- and off-camera.

“It’s obviously a little more difficult at the moment to go out into the community and read to children or seniors, but the idea with Read for the Record is to celebrate literacy and promote education,” Oxley said. “As this particular video affirms, individuals and organizations can still do that to an extent by way of video communication, television programming and reading to those in our social bubble.”

Larry Dowling, director of WVPB Television Production, said the Read For The Record project is “a bit of a time capsule,” capturing the spirit, essence and personality of our staff. “The award directly reflects the talent we have in the organization as a whole, not just the Production and Education departments. Nothing occurs in a vacuum, and this NETA award should instill a sense of pride in the entire WVPB team.”

The PMAs honor the finest work in education, community engagement, marketing/communications and content. This year saw a record number of entries from stations across the country.

“Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees and awardees,” said NETA president Eric Hyyppa. “Every year, for the past 52 years, these awards have celebrated excellence in public media. This year, that excellence was amplified by your profoundly creative and inspired responses to multiple crises. All across the country, public media stations rose to the moment and served their communities during their time of critical need. Well done!”

NETA also nominated the following WVPB programs:

Content — Cultural Documentary: In Tune: A Community of Musicians, a Regional-Emmy nominated documentary that celebrates old-time music and its history in the Mountain State. Produced by WVPB filmmaker Russ Barbour and narrated by Mountain Stage’s Larry Groce, the film examines old-time music of the hills and valleys of Appalachia, especially in Clay County, home to some of West Virginia’s most distinguished practitioners. VIEW THE FILM.

Content — Use of Digital Media: Edible Mountain, a bite-sized, digital series that showcases some of Appalachia’s overlooked and underappreciated products of the forest while highlighting their mostly forgotten uses. Edible Mountain features experts from botanists to conservationists, who provide insight on how to sustainably forage these delicacies. The series is produced by Chuck Kleine. VIEW THE SERIES.