TUPELO – Elantra Grayson was a little nervous reading in front of everybody, and the 9-year-old shot through the first sentence too quickly.
“Whoa, slow down,” said Elantra’s volunteer teacher, Mike Garmon.
“We have to obey all the punctuation.”
Elantra was one of 15 children gathered Tuesday morning in the A.M. Strange Library for a summer reading program offered by the Community Development Foundation.
Coordinators Orlando Pannell and Patricia Neely-Dorsey call the program “Real Love,” and every Tuesday morning from now until July 20, children in grades 2-8 can practice their reading skills, free of charge, under the supervision of qualified volunteers.
Neely-Dorsey and Pannell based the program on age-appropriate reading material many of the kids know from school.
Tuesday, Elantra read from the fast-paced adventure novel “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen.
Up the hill, at Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church, 9-year-old Isaiah Orr listened intently as his classmates read “Ralph S. Mouse,” a story about a varmint who befriends outcasts.
“The mouse talks to people and he does a lot of other stuff,” said Isaiah, keeping his eyes and his finger glued to the page.
The idea for the program came from Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” which Pannell and other CDF employees were reading.
Pannell learned that children from lower- to middle-income families scored 15-17 percent lower on standardized tests.
Pannell also was concerned about the 47 percent dropout rate among black males in the Tupelo Public School System.
“Real Love” isn’t intensive, it’s just an informal, yet structured, environment in which children can practice reading and critically evaluate what they’ve read.
Each Tuesday, from 9 a.m. to noon, volunteers lead groups at the Strange Library, as well as at Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church, Christ the King the Lutheran Church on Lawndale, White Hill Missionary Baptist Church on East Main and the Haven Acres Community Center.
Neely-Dorsey, who recently published a book of poems, is inspired by what she’s seen from the children.
“They’re really interested in these stories and they’re learning to appreciate the power and beauty of the written word,” she said.
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the “Real Love” summer reading program, call Orlando Pannell at (662) 871-5385.
Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal