OUR OPINION: ‘Tupelo Reads’ culminates another literate season

The third edition of the popular “Tupelo Reads” program concludes later this month with a series of celebratory events focused on the famous novel, “My Dog Skip” by Yazoo City native Willie Morris, who was the book’s central human character in real life.

“Tupelo Reads” unveiled “My Dog Skip” as its 2013 selection in the spring, and early participants – including children at the Boys & Girls Club – spent the summer reading about a boy and his dog and their life together in Yazoo City during World War II.

The program series has been underwritten by the city of Tupelo, Friends of the Lee County Library and Reed’s GumTree Bookstore.

Events begin to unfold Sept. 15 with a 4 p.m. Blessing of the Dogs at Tupelo Bark Park on Veterans Boulevard.

All events are free.

On Sept. 20, a Friday night, the steering committee for the program hosts A Downtown Double Header at 6:30 p.m. featuring a Student Art Show and reception at GumTree Museum, followed at 7:30 p.m. by a showing of the movie, “My Dog Skip” at Fairpark in front of City Hall. The movie stars Kevin Bacon, Luke Wilson, Dianne Lane and Frankie Muniz, and a series of dogs playing Skip.

The culmination of the 2013 “Tupelo Reads” at 11:30 a.m., Sept. 25 at Lee County Library, features former Gov. William Winter, a close Morris friend and his neighbor when Morris lived in Jackson. Morris died in 1999.

Winter, governor from 1980-84, is one of Mississippi’s leading men of letters and an avid lifelong reader. The event will be staged downstairs at the library to provide more room and for patrons’ convenience. The Lunching With Books Event will feature the usual variety of homemade sandwiches, chips, cookies and soft drinks. A small fee is charged but no one will be turned away who cannot pay for the food.

Winter, who grew up in Grenada County, served in World War II combat and is thoroughly familiar with the setting of the book in the 1940s.

Former Mayor Jack Reed Jr., and his wife, Lisa Reed, are both on the Steering Committee, which Lisa Reed chairs.

“Tupelo Reads” is an engaging, community-building program for residents of all ages, and its genuine fun also carries a strong message about the importance of literacy. Reading is a key to enjoying life as well as prospering in life’s undertakings.