OUR OPINION: ‘Read and Rise’ raises literacy expectations

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Tupelo Public Schools and the larger community struck a partnership on Thursday with one of the most successful developers and promoters of reading and learning in the world, Scholastic, Inc. – and fulfilling the potential could change the lives of many students in the district.
Scholastic, a 90-year-old company, is one of the largest publishers of children’s books and literature in the world. Tupelo became its first partner city in Mississippi in a program called Read and Rise, which starts with the gift of an age-appropriate book for all 7,500 children in the Tupelo district.
The monetary value is impressive – $100,000 – but that value can increase infinitely in a collaboration involving the Tupelo Public Schools and Parents for Public Schools Parent Leadership Institute. Parent participants will have an opportunity to learn how to engage their children in the home in what is called a “text-rich” environment – homes where reading is taught, expected, encouraged and eventually becomes second nature.
The presentation event Thursday was in Tupelo’s Early Childhood Education Center, the pre-kindergarten school with an on-campus enrollment of 240 students and the equivalent of three more special-needs classes. Each class is led by a degreed, licensed teacher.
In addition, Scholastic is a strongly mission-focused company, operating by a company creed that clearly places the welfare and intellectual nurture of all children as its all-encompassing work. In that regard, it fits the Tupelo community model of methodical goal-setting with high moral and ethical expectation.
The possibility of a partnership developed after Lisa Reed, the wife of Mayor Jack Reed, Jr., and herself a strong supporter of public education, attended a high school reunion in Birmingham at which she renewed her friendship with former classmate Margery Mayer, now the president of Scholastic Education, one of the firm’s divisions. One conversation led to another, and mutual interests became an official partnership.
Further cementing the relational pact, Larry Holland, a native Mississippian who is senior consultant to the chairman of Scholastic, made Thursday’s presentation.
Community-wide literacy is one of the major initiatives of the Reed administration, and includes providing a copy of the book “Goodnight Moon” to every child born at North Mississippi Medical Center; the Mayor’s Task Force on Education, which strives to promote lifelong learning throughout the city; and this fall a series of community events around the book “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
Parents interested in participating in the Read and Rise program should contact Mary Ann Plasencia at (662) 841-8850 or maplasencia@tupeloschools.com.