"Town & Gown"- JSU community shares love of reading and promotes literacy

"Town & Gown"- JSU community shares love of reading and promotes literacy


By Heather Greene, a graduate assistant in the Office of Public Relations at JSU

“Books can take you anywhere,” JSU President Dr. Bill Meehan told a group of elementary students at Jacksonville Christian Academy (JCA) during their recent Read Around the World week.

While reading Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Meehan encouraged the young students to set goals in life and work towards attaining them.

“Study hard, do good, do what your mom and dad ask you to do, and you will move mountains too,” he informed the students.

For an entire week, JCA brought in several JSU “stars” such as Dr. and Mrs. Meehan, Head Ballerina Susan Grace Catrett, Head Football Coach Bill Clark, JSU football player Preston Hatchett, Southerners Drum Major Daniel Marshall, Miss JSU 2013 Sara Beth Drake, and JSU student Daniel Milner to read to the elementary classes.

Mrs. Tomya Hancock, assistant principal at JCA, states, “This past week we observed, Read Around the World. Each day we featured a different Dr. Seuss book. We invited local dignitaries from our community and JSU to be guest readers. This encouraged our students and helped them gain a broader love of reading. We were fortunate to have so many local celebrities willing to participate in encouraging JCA students to develop a love of literature.”

This was just one of many ways individuals and organizations around JSU are working to promote literacy in the community and beyond.

Miss JSU Sara Beth Drake is working to bring awareness not just within the state of Alabama but to the nation through her platform, Literacy Matters.

Drake explained that there are about eleven million functionally illiterate adults in Alabama, which translates into one of every four adults. Functional illiteracy (defined as the inability to read, write, or utilize basic math or technology skills) is linked with numerous social problems such as crime, increased high school dropout rate, poverty, teen pregnancy, and poor emotional health.

Currently, Drake and a team are taking “baby steps to make these illiteracy numbers go down in our state.”

Drake has been reading weekly to local elementary and middle school students in the Calhoun and Etowah County areas. She enjoys showing the students how much fun reading can be.

“I am so passionate about literacy because I have a passion to serve, to affect social change,” explains Drake.

According to Drake, parents play a crucial role in the literacy development of children.

Drake is also working to aid parents in giving their children a jump start on reading.

“I have teamed with a non-profit organization, First Book, and we accumulate donations to go buy new books for mothers who are in hospitals and about to give birth,” she explains. “We give these books to these new parents so they will have books to teach their children to read as soon as they get to that age. I am excited to be teaming up with First Book and cannot wait to see what else I can do as Miss JSU 2013.”

JSU’s Circle K International (CKI) is also working to combat illiteracy by selling raffle tickets to raise money for Reading is Fundamental (RIF).

Larissa Kellum, president of CKI, explains that RIF “has a vision of a literate America in which all children have access to books and can discover the joy and value of reading.”

The club is selling raffle tickets for $2 each or $5 for three. The drawing will take place on March 18, and the winner will receive a 32-inch LCD flat screen TV.

With one hundred per cent of the ticket sales going directly to RIF, the money raised through this project will go towards purchasing books for children who do not own any.

This is the first year the club has hosted a raffle for RIF, but Kellum explains that due to the amount of success thus far, they hope to make it an annual event.

“Volunteering at the public library is just one way many of our CKI members help promote literacy,” explains Kellum. “Many of our members have gone and volunteered at the RIF Foundation in Opelika and helped to organize and distribute books to children.”

To purchase tickets to benefit RIF, please contact Larissa Kellum at lkellum@jsu.edu.

For more information about this story, please contact the Office of Public Relations at (256)-782-5636.

This article originally appeared in the "Town & Gown" of the Jacksonville News.