By Riley Manning
TUPELO – “Forrest Gump” might be too advanced for 10-year-olds to read, but they are still learning lessons from it.
Lisa Reed and Bonnie Webb, part of the mayor’s task force on education, brought this year’s Tupelo Reads selection to the Haven Acres Boys & Girls Club this week.
“It’s been controlled chaos, but they have definitely been learning this week,” Reed said. “They’ve really been great, very receptive, and engaged the whole time.”
The group of 30 or so children aged 10-11 have been learning everything from social skills to geography from “Forrest Gump.”
“They’ve learned how to present themselves properly, make eye contact, and give a firm handshake,” said Boys & Girls Club director of special events Evie Boyd. “They’ve also learned about history, since some of the story takes place around the Vietnam War.”
Boyd said they haven’t read the book itself because it is advanced for the age group, but the kids will encounter the story through Tupelo Reads’ downtown activities, which include a showing of the film in Fairpark.
Boyd said Webb and Reed brought a classroom perspective to the lessons. On Wednesday, they closed out their time at the club by correcting a passage of Gump’s sub-par grammar, and wrote out a scenario in which Gump pops up in a modern-day scene, like a professional basketball game or music concert.
“And, of course, we’re ending with a pizza party,” Reed said.
Haven Acres clubhouse director Mattie Mabry said the lessons fit right in with their literacy-intensive curriculum.
“They read often as part of our daily power hour,” Mabry said. “And we encourage them to read outside of the club, even if it’s just the sports page, and to make an effort to remember what they’ve read.”
Community-wide events for this year’s Tupelo Reads program will kick off on Sept. 30, when “Forest Gump” author Winston Groom will speak at the Lee County Library’s Lunching with Books event. On Oct. 3, festivities will include an art show of local students’ artwork inspired by the book at the GumTree Museum of Art, followed by the “Run Forrest Run” 5k run. After the run, the movie adaptation will be shown in Fairpark.