Your Neighbor: Meet Jennifer Reader
By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier
Jennifer Reader grew up in Winston-Salem. From an early age, Reader appreciated and valued her education. “I always loved reading,” mentions Reader. The disciplined student chose East Carolina University for her undergraduate work to earn her bachelor of arts degree in education.
“I knew that I wanted my focus to be in elementary education,” says Reader. After she graduated from East Carolina University, she went on to teach in the Lake Norman area for fifth grade. After a couple of years, Reader decided to try teaching in a larger city and packed her backs to head to New York City. “I enjoyed the pace of a bigger city,” explains Reader of her time in the Big Apple.
After appreciating her time teaching in New York City, Reader chose to head back home to get an advanced degree in education. Reader completed her graduate studies at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her focus was in special education, which included an academically gifted certification. During that time, Reader also met her future husband, Jason, in 2002. Jason and Jennifer were married in 2004.
The newlywed taught in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools primarily as a fifth-grade teacher. “I taught for about 20 years after graduating college,” says Reader. Reader learned firsthand about being a parent herself in 2008, when her daughter, Katie was born.
One of the projects Reader enjoyed doing as a teacher at Vienna Elementary School, was teaching the students how to crochet blankets and hats for a charity called Newborns in Need. “This non-profit is headquartered in Pfafftown where Vienna is located. They provide items for families bringing home a newborn who have financial strains,” explains Reader. “It is essentially a baby shower in a bag which gives families the basics for bringing home their new baby. We typically never met the new baby or the family. We are told when there was a need from someone at the hospital.”
Reader’s commitment to helping this organization resulted in the national group reaching out to have her become their director of the Piedmont Chapter. “I’ve been volunteering in that role for the past three years. On average per month, we prepare about 15-20 bags for families in need. Sometimes we do get items for their siblings that are older. We are always looking for monetary donations to help supply those families. We also are always grateful for students or people who are able to crochet and knit items for the bags. We like for everything to be new for the families. We aren’t always able to help as many families as we would like. So we are always grateful to grow community involvement.”
Reader has found that community involvement has been very important to her and her family. When she stopped teaching when her daughter was in first grade, she began working for her husband’s business, J. Reader Construction. Having always enjoyed her connection with students and their families, she also wanted to continue with that work, even if it wasn’t a full-time job. Reader began volunteering with Bermuda Run Cares. “It started as a group of ladies that had a fundraiser every year and focused solely on hospice organizations. Now we’ve grown it to include helping families in need in the Bermuda Run and Davie County areas. Unfortunately, like many charities we’ve not been able to have our typical in-person fundraisers, but we are gearing up for ways to get creative in 2021,” says Reader. “Aside from monetary donations for organizations, we’ve had coat and food drives. It’s been gratifying to see the support in the community with helping other families in need.”
When Reader isn’t helping support her community, she often enjoys challenging herself with local running races. The seasoned marathon runner enjoys participating in races in various states including the Marine Corps Marathon. “I didn’t do it this year, but hope to next year,” says Reader. She also enjoys doing relay-running races with her friends.
Whether it’s running for a cause, or because it’s a just a good way to stay healthy, our neighbor finds that it’s important to keep focusing on ways to make a positive impact.