Trumbull dad creates reading outreach program

As soon as the dismissal bell rings on Thursdays at Middlebrook Elementary School, a small group of students head to the Bridgeport YMCA, with their favorite storybooks in hand, ready to read to preschool children.

Preschool kids gathered excitedly around Kayla Nichols, 7, and in another classroom, Paula Ardissone, 9, as they read. The girls looked comfortable in their reading roles and even told the group to quiet down or sit nicely if the little students got too excited.

“This is so rewarding for me as a father to see,” Kayla’s dad, Dan Nichols, said as he watched his daughter read.

Nichols started the program between the YMCA and Middlebrook, called Readers Are Leaders. The six-week program started a few weeks ago, with Middlebrook students, ages 7 to 9. Six students signed up.

“The children will read stories to 3- and 4-year-old children for 20 to 30 minutes after school, learning valuable life lessons of giving back to those who can’t read,” Nichols said of the program. “The values the students get from this will be self-confidence, giving back to the community, accomplishment, excitement, fun, learning, leadership, significance, responsibility, teaching, and teamwork.”

Jackie Valle, a teacher at the Kossuth Street YMCA, said she has seen the Trumbull students get more and more comfortable working with the younger children. The children also get excited when they know the older students are coming.

“It’s great for both sides,” Valle said. “The children get to have that interaction with someone who is close to their age, almost like an older sibling.”

Nichols said his long-term goal is to get the program to extend to other elementary schools and get more kids involved. Each child who completes the six-week program gets a certificate at the end. It’s a good introduction into community service, Nichols said.

“We are a community — not just one specific town,” Nichols said. “It’s teaching kids to give back and reach out.”

Anyone interested in learning more or getting involved may contact Nichols at