A representative of Scholastic Inc., announced at a special ceremony on Thursday morning that the global company will donate one book to every student in the district. Those books, whose titles vary by grade level, will be distributed during the next several weeks.
The company also will sponsor a family literacy program that will help parents and guardians teach their children how to read.
"This will be one of the best days we've had in a long time," said Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr.
The value of the donated books is more than $100,000, Reed said. Scholastic, Inc., is also providing the training and materials for the literacy program, "Read and Rise" for free.
Thursday's announcement was held at Tupelo's pre-kindergarten school, the Early Childhood Education Center, and was attended by Clifford, Scholastic's mascot, and by about 20 community leaders. Children from the school held "Thank You" signs.
"It is one of the most generous donations that has ever been made because it will keep on serving through the years," said Tupelo interim superintendent David Meadows. "That one book could make a difference across generations."
The announcement's seeds were laid when Reed's wife, Lisa Reed, attended a high school reunion in Birmingham and ran into a former classmate, Margery Mayer, who is now president of Scholastic Education, a division of Scholastic Inc.
Their meeting sparked a series of conversations that led to the partnership between the company, city and school district. Present at Thursday's announcement was Larry Holland, senior consultant for the chairman's office at Scholastic Inc. Holland said the company was attracted by Tupelo's existing literacy initiatives, its vision and its collaboration.
Those existing initiatives include an effort to provide a copy of the book "Goodnight Moon" to every child born at North Mississippi Medical Center and the Mayor's Task Force on Education, which strives to promote lifelong learning throughout the city and this fall has sponsored a series of community events around the book "Tuesdays with Morrie."
"What really inspires us as a company of 90 years about what we see in Tupelo is collaboration between the community, business community, public schools and public sector," Holland said. "All of these entities work together to promote literacy, and that is very exciting to us."
Scholastic Inc., has several other community-wide partnerships, Holland said, including ones in San Antonio and New Orleans. Tupelo is the first place in Mississippi to partner with the company on a community-wide basis.
The books will be given to students soon. Scholastic offered a selection of titles to district officials to choose which books would be given to the students. Meadows said many students likely will do projects based on their book, but that the goal is for students to read them independently at home.
"This is one more way to know the community of Tupelo values education and specifically literacy," Meadows said. "We appreciate the generous gifts from Scholastic."
Perhaps most significant will be the Read and Rise Program, which Holland said is geared toward parents of students between ages 4 and 8. He said the six-session program is appropriate for parents of all education levels, from those who didn't finish elementary school and struggle to read to those who have received doctorate degrees.
It will focus on the stages children go through as they learn to read and what parents, grandparents, guardians or caregivers can do to support them. It will look at what they should be seeing and how they can help.
"A parent is the child's first teacher," Holland said. "Having a good start in literacy development before children even get to school is really critical."
Two classes of the free program will be start soon and will be led by volunteers from the Parents for Public Schools Parent Leadership Institute, said Sally Gray. Each class will have 15 students, and additional classes will likely be added in the future. Classes will be available in both English and Spanish.
"Getting these kids reading on grade level by third grade is the greatest gift we can give our children," said Gray, a parent coach for Parents for Public Schools.
SCHOLASTIC INC., is donating a book to
every student in the Tupelo Public School
District. Here is a list of the titles students
will be receiving in the next couple of
PRE-K: “Grow Flower Grow,” or “When Sophie
Gets Angry-Really-Really-Angry...” or
“This is the way we go to School,” or
“Seven Little Rabbits”
K-2 SCHOOLS: “The Worst Best Friend” or
“Owen and Mzee: True Story of Remarkable
3-6 SCHOOLS: “Becoming Naomi Leon” or
“Tale of Despereaux: No Ordinary Mouse”
TUPELO MIDDLE: “Freak the Mighty” or
TUPELO HIGH: “Notes from the Midnight