Tuesday, January 15

The Power of Books...

This week's topic is books, and as I may have mentioned before, I hate telling people in blogs what books I'm reading and liking. The thing about being a writer is that you have so many writer friends; I'd hate to leave out anybody with a current release and hurt their feelings! (That being said, all the writers on this blog with current releases--listed, I believe, in the previous post--are FABULOUS and their books are MUST READS!)

Anyhoo, lucky for me that I happened upon the most incredible power-of-books story ever on the holiday road trip I just took with my family on the Winter break. On the night of our first day driving home from Florida to Toronto (a three day trek), we were intrigued by billboards proclaiming Tifton, Georgia, population 15,000, the 'Reading Capital of the World'. Yup, you read that right. Not New York or London or Paris...Tifton, Georgia!

We stopped for the night in Tifton, the population of which, we eventually found out, would have had a 26 percent illiteracy rate like the rest of the county it's situated in and maintained its 40% high school dropout rate, were it not for the effort spearheaded by Terri Nalls, the media specialist at Charles Spencer Elementary School, back in 1996. At that time, Nalls, determined to make her kids readers, applied to the Tifton County Foundation for Educational Excellence for a $3,500 grant to bring the Accelerated Reader program to her school. She got the grant, and the program was a huge hit with students and parents alike.

Talk about results. Today, students in this largely agricultural community check out library books by the handful, and civic clubs hold reading contests! School test scores improved by leaps and bounds, and in a couple short years, Tifton students amassed over a million Accelerated Reader points.

The townsfolk celebrated on November 15, 2000, in a jammed high school stadium, where Mayor Paul Johnson led his constituents in reading aloud from Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat, setting a Guiness record for the most people reading together in one place, as well as for the most reading together silently. (After reading aloud, the crowd then read their own books silently.)

No more is Tifton a place where companies refuse to locate because they can't find qualified workers. (Teri Nalls has said, "They couldn't read well enough to follow a recipe, to fill out a job application. I wanted these kids to love to read, to be able to go into a business and feel good about themselves.")

Isn't that just a totally awesome story? (Tell me your eyes aren't a little moist...)

Anybody else have an inspirational book story?



Wendy Toliver said...

Okay, you got me. My eyes are moist. :)

Alyson Noel said...

I'm totally gobsmacked!
What a wonderful story!
(reaching for the tissue now. . .)

bevrosenbaum said...

I know, right? I'm so sending them some free books!

Amanda Ashby said...

Totally not moist - just got some dust in them, that's all! But seriously, what an amazing story. Doncha just love and adore teachers like that.

Gerb said...

Oooh. I've got shivers. Kudos to Ms. Nalls!!! Bev, do you know *where* to send books? I love this success story!

Kelly Parra said...

Wonderful story, Bev! Thanks for sharing that with us!

Charlotte said...

Truly a great story! thanks.

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