TOPEKA -- The Junior Leader Readers program provides a new book to targeted student groups throughout the community. The first book recipients will be the Kindergartners of Scott Magnet Elementary today (Wednesday) at 2:00.
Dr. Ryan Yamka, United Way volunteer, led the charge to launch this program and put more books into the hands of eager learners. Yamka serves on the steering committee of United Way’s Young Leaders Society, a philanthropic group for young professionals under 40 years of age. Shortly after joining the committee, Yamka’s father, Harry Michael Yamka, passed away. With the dual goal of celebrating his father’s legacy and giving back to the community, Yamka brought this fresh idea to the committee.
“My dad was a good role model and showed me the importance of family and having a big heart,” said Yamka of his father who among many roles served as a 9/11 First Responder, Vietnam Veteran, police officer, fire marshal and scoutmaster. This program is a great opportunity for him to give back to the community even after his passing.”
The Junior Leader Readers Program will launch with a Yamka family favorite, Edward the Emu, written by Sheena Knowles and illustrated by Rod Clement. The story of Edward the Emu teaches children the significance of being true to themselves. In the book, Edward decides he no longer wants to be an emu and tries being other animals (a seal, a lion and even a snake) for a change. After some trial and error, Edward realizes that being himself, an emu, really is the best thing of all.
Yamka said he selected this book because it is a favorite of his five-year-old daughter, Natalia. The book will be read to the Kindergartners of Scott Magnet Elementary by Brendan Wiley. Yamka selected Wiley to read the story because he is the new director of the Topeka Zoo, where Yamka also serves as a volunteer.
Sponsorships have been committed by several other companies since Yamka’s initial book purchase – allowing the program to continue and more books to be purchased through a partnership with The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. Currently, the program is targeted to Kindergarten students with the first schools being those with the greatest need as identified by Topeka Public Schools.
“I hope this book and this new program will bring the same excitement of reading into other family's homes,” said Yamka.