October heralds My Book's drive to boost Lowndes' literacy


My Book of Lowndes County volunteer Stan McCrary of the Possum Town Toastmasters Club presents a book to West Lowndes Elementary student Ricardo Robertson Jr. McCrary brings to life Dr. George Washington Carver,

My Book of Lowndes County volunteer Stan McCrary of the Possum Town Toastmasters Club presents a book to West Lowndes Elementary student Ricardo Robertson Jr. McCrary brings to life Dr. George Washington Carver, "The Peanut Man," in My Book presentations to children. Ricardo's parents are Ricardo and Chiquita Robertson.
Photo by: Courtesy photo



Jan Swoope



Local mailboxes will soon contain a letter My Book of Lowndes County volunteers hope recipients will not ignore. So do many children throughout the county, whether they know it or not. They may not be aware of My Book's annual October fundraising campaign, but they know they love the books it provides. As they're being entertained by stories, they're also boosting reading skills. 


In the 2017-2018 academic year, My Book of Lowndes County distributed 2,552 books to first-graders at Cook, Fairview, Sale and Stokes Beard Elementary Schools, as well as at West Lowndes Elementary School, said My Book President Qua Austin of Columbus.  


"We also have a program at Columbus Middle School that's all about impacting young girls' lives, influencing lives through literature," Austin added. "That's a project we work with Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science on." 


My Book grants to schools allow teachers to order books that complement units of study in a variety of subjects.  


As examples, one book was used in collaboration with the Mississippi State University poultry division, providing interdisciplinary lessons of poetry and poultry. Baby chicks were hatched in the classroom.  


One teacher ordered the book "One Vote, Two Votes, I Vote, You Vote," a Cat in the Hat Learning Library book that introduces early readers to the concept of America's election process. 


When a study unit is finished, students take their book home to read again and share with parents and siblings. It's a way to excite children about reading at a crucial state. 




Can't read, can't succeed 


Multiple studies confirm that poor reading skills can snowball into issues that eventually harm communities, states and the nation as a whole. A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows that students who aren't proficient by fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. According to Mississippi Kids Count, lack of basic literacy skills is associated with academic failure, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, unemployment, low productivity and welfare dependence.  


"The whole idea of My Book is to inspire reading," Austin remarked. "Reading is life-changing, and these books provide classroom resources, and then the children proudly get to keep them at home for their own personal libraries. Teachers say our books have an impact." 


Students served by My Book receive five books each throughout the academic year. 


"It takes about $6,000 for a year. One of the things we would like to do is to raise more," Austin said. A goal is to be able to serve students in kindergarten through third grade, she added.  


Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Cherie Labat said, "Instilling a love for reading at an early age is fundamental to reading. Being able to provide books at home and school will assist us in accelerating our literacy initiative. We are grateful to My Book and its community of volunteers for having the foresight to write the grants to assist us in fulfilling our vision and mission. This partnership is another way the Columbus community is supporting the Columbus Municipal School District." 




How to help 


Tax-deductible donations to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit My Book of Lowndes County can be made through the CREATE Foundation by check or online. Mail checks payable to MyBook/CREATE to P.O. Box 1265, Columbus, MS 39703.  


To contribute online, go to createfoundation.com/make-a-donation. 


For more information about My Book of Lowndes County, volunteer opportunities or having a representative speak to a civic group, contact Austin at 662-549-2504.


Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.


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