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?