OUR OPINION: Community reading offers enrichment for all ages

By NEMS Daily Journal

“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

Tupelo’s second “Tupelo Reads” program, announced Tuesday with the Marilynne Robinson novel “Gilead” as the literary centerpiece, could be an enriching summer option for people of all ages, with community-connecting events in the fall like writing a shared epilogue in which many can participate.
“Gilead” is the fictional story of a dying pastor who writes his autobiography for a young son so that he can know his father better, even after he dies.
The Mayor’s Task Force on Education event organizer, Bonnie Webb, describes the book as a story of “grace and forgiveness.” That theme resonates across many works of fiction and nonfiction.
Reading together as a community is a powerful way to engage neighbors and friends, exploring the commonalities of life shared within a small, diverse Southern city.
On Sept. 26, as summer ends, Sid Salter, a syndicated columnist whose work is published twice each week in the Daily Journal, will discuss the book with his daughter, Kate Salter, who teaches English at Mississippi State University, during a luncheon at the Lee County Library.
Sid Salter, in addition to being a journalist, is a masterful storyteller and popular speaker. Other events will be announced as they are finalized.
While the Tupelo Reads program is not focused solely on children, benefits of community reading, especially summer reading, are quantifiable.
The School Library Journal, a professional/ trade publication, reported in 2010 that participation in summer reading programs can advance student reading and negate the loss of learning sometimes associated with idle summers.
“As hoped,” the journal reported, “our findings showed that third-grade students who participated in summer reading programs scored higher on reading tests at the beginning of fourth grade and didn’t experience summer learning loss. They also scored higher on the post-tests than students who did not participate. Although students who didn’t participate in summer reading programs made gains, they didn’t reach the level of students who did participate.”
The study, conducted under the umbrella of Johns Hopkins University, included Mississippi students.
As for adults, continued reading over a lifetime, especially reading fiction, challenges the brain because it reveals the unexpected, studies at Baylor University’s Medical School have shown.
Community reading’s assets are proven, individual and shared; consider participating this summer.