CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — A new program in Jefferson County is looking to expand representation in the classroom. It’s a pilot program where African-American men from the community come out and read to fourth-grade students.

The Black Men Read program is making its way around Jefferson County. The goal is not only to enhance literature for these fourth graders but to highlight children, families, communities and representation one book at a time.

On Wednesday, students at Wright Denny Intermediate School got a different reading experience.

“I think it was really cool, and it was really nice of him that he came down and read to our class, and that book seemed really interested,” said Nora Smith.

Every other week community members from local businesses and organizations will read culturally competent stories to all fourth-graders. Students will even get to take a book home and then take a field trip to Shepherd University for a live performance of readings and stories.

It’s all a part of Shepherd University’s Contemporary Theatre Studies. The program is being funded by The Rural Arts Collaborative, which is supported by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Fayette County Cultural Trust.

“Being able to talk to kids and have them understand that there’s like different goals, identities and ethnicities and other things of that nature,” said participant Richard Johnson. “Reading can be fun, and also just understanding that there are new ideas and values out there that you know, that there are kids just like that, that are just trying to find their way and realize what they want to do in life.”

Johnson offered the students an interactive experience as they read Rita Williams Garcia’s, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. He had them clap their hands to beats and even asked questions about their favorite hobbies and sports.

Melanie Allen is a fourth-grade teacher at Wright Denny. She says it makes a difference when other people read to her class.

“They get to see it read in a different way than what I always do. So it’s a great way for them to see different fluency and different ways for them to hear stories being read and how you can act them out,” said Denny.

The Black Men Read program is not only focused on how or what they’re reading but who’s reading.

“I just I think seeing men in the elementary schools, seeing men of color in the elementary schools I’m all of these are things that not every student will see every day. We’re really, really proud to be able to provide that,” said KB Slaine, Director of the Contemporary Theatre Studies at Shepherd University

“The guy was really nice and I hope he does come back again,” said Smith.

The program will make stops at every elementary school in Jefferson County over the next month. When the pilot program ends organizers will review any changes they think should be made. They hope to officially launch the program in the fall.