This Week at READ USA

Book Choice and Ownership

Nearly 3,000 Books in a Day: Duval County’s READ USA Book Fairs Began Today!

  • Read USA Inc.
  • April 3 2024


What a way to kick off the 2024 READ USA Book Fairs in Duval County, coming to all 100 Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) elementary schools this spring!

The students at Merrill Road Elementary School not only received two FREE, brand-new books of their choosing – they also received a special visit from Jacksonville Jaguars players! Linebacker Caleb Johnson #57, Defensive Lineman Roy Robertson-Harris #95, and Linebacker Foyesade Oluokun #23 joined the fun by encouraging students to read and pick out books that interest them most. Smiling faces abounded because of the books AND the Jaguars players, who are exceptional role models in our community.

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Sponsored by The Good People’s Foundation, a national nonprofit focused on literacy for which Caleb Johnson serves as vice president, the Merrill Road Elementary School Book Fair provided each of the 450+ students with their choice of two free books along with Student Activity Books and parent/caregiver resources.

Today was also READ USA Book Fair Day at Arlington Elementary, sponsored by Stephanie and Tim Cost; Arlington Heights Elementary, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville; and Parkwood Heights Elementary, sponsored by the Michael Ward and Jennifer Glock Foundation. With over 1,400 students across all four schools, that’s nearly 3,000 books distributed in one day! All thanks to our incredible donors and volunteers!


Our volunteers are truly the backbone that help our Book Fairs run smoothly, and for each of you who helped us today and in the coming weeks, we are immensely grateful!

We look forward to seeing the 96 DCPS elementary schools we haven’t visited yet very soon!



Are You a Little Green?

If you were just a little bit “green with envy” at having missed the chance to volunteer at this morning’s READ USA Book Fair at Merrill Road alongside Jacksonville Jaguars players – don’t worry, there are still opportunities to be had! (And some just may include the Jags!)

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This week and next, and then again during the first four weeks of May, there are MANY opportunities for you to volunteer at READ USA Book Fairs. Tasks include:

  • Guiding young students through the book fair, pointing them towards book sections and topics that interest them most, and helping write their names in their brand-new books – this is THE most fun job available anywhere! (Well, at least in our opinion.)
  • Supporting teachers and READ USA staff with keeping students and books organized during the Book Fair.
  • Book Fair set-up and pack-up.

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To volunteer at an upcoming Book Fair, review the dates (each DCPS elementary school has an assigned date below) and then let us know:

  • April 3rd – 5th
  • April 8th – 12th
  • April 29th – May 3rd
  • May 6th – May 10th
  • May 13th – May 17th
  • May 20th – May 24th

Curious about when a particular elementary school near you will have its Book Fair? Email us to ask!

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Volunteer at a Book Fair!

It’s Not Too Late for a $12 Investment

Even though the READ USA Book Fairs have officially commenced in Duval County for the 2024 season, it’s not too late to make the best $12 investment you ever can…

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For $12 per student, every elementary student in Duval County – 51,000+ in total – has the ability to choose and own two free, brand-new books at the READ USA Book Fairs – plus receive reading activity guides and family resources!

With over 60% of low-income households having zero books in them, many students don’t have the opportunity to read, learn, and expand their minds while at home. This is precisely why READ USA launched our free Book Fairs over a decade ago, and we have since put more than 780,000 books in a quarter-million students’ hands and homes.

READ USA Book Fairs are the perfect opportunity to invest $12 in a student’s life and future!

Sponsor a Student


Books for Bayview’s Braves!

For the READ USA team, there is no greater joy than helping students find delight in reading – and the same goes for our tremendous READ USA supporter Marsha Oliver!

Marsha treated the students at Bayview Elementary – the home of the Braves – to something extra special yesterday: their very own book celebration!

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Bayview Elementary is special to both Marsha and our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly for several reasons: Marsha attended Bayview as a student and it’s where her mother was a 5th-grade social studies teacher, and it’s where Dr. Kelly began his elementary teaching career!

During the book celebration, for which Marsha sponsored free books through READ USA, Marsha addressed 3rd-grade students during an assembly to discuss the power of literacy, the importance of being yourself, and going after your dreams. READ USA also handed out copies of Marsha’s own Jeremy’s Journey biography!

2023 Vol 2 Jeremys Journey Marsha Oliver

As part of the fun, Marsha also shared a bit of her educational past at Bayview:

  • One of her earliest memories at Bayview is play day/field day. She was also on the President’s Council on Fitness!
  • Science was her favorite subject.
  • Social studies was her least favorite subject, because, “I was in my mom’s class.” And when asked what it was like to have your mom as a teacher, she said, “stressful.” (LOL!)
  • Marsha’s first ever award came from Bayview Elementary: she won the What America Means to Me writing contest!
  • And of course, our personal favorite, she shared what advice she’d give to her 3rd-grade self: To read for FUN!

Thank you so much for making the day so special and inspirational for Bayview’s Braves, Marsha!

Curious to know more about Marsha? Order your copy of Marsha’s Jeremy’s Journey biography copy here!

READ USA is also grateful to Bayview Elementary Principal Claire St. Amand and her team for hosting Marsha and READ USA! Many thanks also to DCPS Superintendent Dr. Dana Kriznar for joining us.

READ USA Board Member Kawanza Humphrey Named a Woman of Influence

Our very own READ USA Board Member Kawanza Humphrey has been named a 2024 Woman of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal – a very well-deserved recognition!

Kawanza Humphry500x500Kawanza, who has served as the chief human resources officer for VyStar Credit Union since 2021, has served on READ USA’s Board of Directors since 2022 and has been a passionate advocate for literacy and community volunteerism. She has been a highly involved READ USA board member, helping the organization secure financial and volunteer support and by volunteering herself at various book events throughout the year.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, you can read the Jacksonville Business Journal’s Woman of Influence profile of Kawanza here. We particularly love Kawanza’s comments about how she demonstrates leadership: “by being accessible and authentic in the workplace. I have taken the initiative to share my personal journey with the entire organization, emphasizing that everyone has the opportunity for growth and access to top-level management.” To us, Kawanza is the personification of being accessible and authentic!

Congratulations, Kawanza! We are proud that your dedication to our community and leadership is recognized, and we are honored and grateful to have you a part of the READ USA team!

You can read more about Kawanza here.

Children’s Book: I Love Strawberries! by Shannon Anderson

Illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquettstrawberries_large

Jolie LOVES strawberries – and she’s on an unstoppable (and hilarious) mission to grow her own food from seedling to table in this colorful introduction to the joy of growing the popular perennial.

Through Jolie’s comical scrapbook-style journal entries, young readers will learn how she convinces the “old people” (a.k.a. her parents) to let her grow her own strawberries. Growing strawberries is a lot of work and responsibility, but Jolie is ready with the help of her faithful rabbit Munchy! Together they find out just how delicious, rewarding, and sometimes complicated it can be to grow your own food.

Creating a garden calendar and notebook, how strawberries grow, what pests to look out for in a garden, why ladybugs are helpful, and how a good gardener takes care of strawberry plants are all explained in this fun and educational story. Informational backmatter includes tips on growing strawberries, an explanation of integrated pest management for greener, safer gardening – and even tips for how to find a pick-your-own strawberry patch near you.

This story makes a great read before a family trip to a strawberry patch, a garden store, or to start a conversation about healthy eating and growing your own food.

I Love Strawberries! explores themes of responsibility, passion, and entrepreneurship while explaining the process of growing one’s own food and the lifecycle of a plant.

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Parent Education Corner: Raising Readers – What Parents Can Do (Continued)

To build upon our series of “Raising Readers: What Parents Can Do,” today we are sharing additional tips for parents and caregivers (even siblings!) to help create a sense of enjoyment for reading, practice reading skills, and ultimately cultivate a love for reading!

Here are some additional tips for parents/caregivers:

  1. Let kids choose books. Offer titles that explore your child’s interests, expand horizons, and offer exposure to different kinds of writing. Show them there are books where they can see themselves and books where they can see the worlds of others.
  2. Make everyone comfortable. Find a spot to read together where you are both comfortable. Sometimes kids have to move around to be comfortable.
  3. Be an active reader. Use expressive voices for characters, make sound effects, and point things out in the text and illustrations when you read aloud.
  4. Discuss what you read. Give your child enough time to absorb the story and look at the pictures as you read. Think aloud about what you are reading and looking at and encourage your child to do the same.
  5. Ask questions when you read. Ask your child to guess what comes next. Ask open-ended questions that help them relate to characters or events in the book. Let your child get involved and ask questions, too–interruptions are okay!
  6. Start reading traditions. Beyond bedtime stories, consider a special birthday book, holiday favorites, or a regular family read aloud night.
  7. Encourage re-reading. Repetition helps kids learn. Re-reading favorite books and poems helps kids make meaningful connections between themselves and books.
  8. Make reading an experience. Link life experiences with books, like a trip to the zoo and books about animals, or planting a garden and reading The Ugly Vegetables by Grace Lin.

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Do you have any questions or ideas for the Parent Education Corner? Anything you’d like to learn? Let us know here!