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Literacy project to give 1,020 books to Natchez third-graders

 

NATCHEZ — More than 1,000 children will leave school this year with a book of their own to read over the summer break.

Natchez-Adams School Board Member Reneé Davis-Wall this year began the Natchez Literacy Program, which aims to place a book in the hands of all district children in third grade or younger.

“It just started as a conversation and grew into something bigger,” Davis-Wall said.

While at a school board conference in the fall, Davis-Wall said one of the presenters spoke about the importance of students reading in third grade.

“They said third grade is the turning point between learning to read and reading to learn,” Davis-Wall said. “That’s the grade where it makes a difference for their future.”

After the conference, Davis-Wall said she decided to use her entire salary from the school board to purchase books for third-graders in Natchez.

“I said, ‘I’m going to purchase books with this money and however many I can get, I can get,’” she said.

But the company from which she was going to purchase the books, UsBorne Books, offered instead to put on an online-book fair, with half the proceeds being donated back to purchasing books for NASD students.

The online nature of the fair meant people could support literacy without even leaving home.

Altogether, Davis-Wall said they were able to purchase $4,400 worth of books.

“My goal initially was, ‘Let’s do third grade,’” she said. “Then the support was greater than I had expected, and … we were able to extend it. Now, every child kindergarten through third grade will have a book to take home.”

Davis-Walls said all 1,020 books were approved by a local librarian to be suitable for the reading level of the students and that the books have now been packed into boxes and are ready to hand out.

This Friday, Wall and a few other administrators will gather at each of the local elementary schools and give out the books.

“There’s a gap in the summer,” she said. “If they don’t get any instruction over the summer, they back slide. This is a goal of mine — to help decrease that backslide.”

Although it is too late to donate to this year’s book give away, Davis-Wall said she hopes to continue the effort next year and that she plans to find more support in the Natchez community.

“It actually kind of broke my heart for the lack of Natchez support,” she said. “Most of the people who donated don’t even live in Natchez.

“Reading doesn’t just increase reading scores,” Davis-Wall said.  “If you can’t read, you can’t understand a math or science problem. Reading really touches all parts of learning.”