This Week at READ USA

Literacy Tutoring

Celebrating Freedom Through Literacy

  • Read USA Inc.
  • July 3 2024

Early summer, from Juneteenth to our nation’s official birthday tomorrow on July 4th, is the season of celebrating freedom and liberation. As I reflect on these occasions, I am reminded of what George Washington Carver once said: “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”

George Washington Carver was a brilliant scientist whose contributions to agricultural innovations transformed farming techniques and improved crop yields in the southeast. Born into slavery, he achieved fame and respect from his colleagues, community members, and even President Theodore Roosevelt during a period when Black Americans were still not equal citizens. His humble demeanor and broadly impactful accomplishments earned him widespread honors and dedications across the United States, including right here in Jacksonville, Florida with George Washington Carver Elementary School – the very place where the idea for READ USA sparked.

George Washington Carver

I frequently refer back to Mr. Carver’s quote about education. His numerous achievements and contributions were only possible because he was literate and had a passion to further his knowledge and understanding of the world. Without that foundational ability to read – provided to him by his “Aunt Susan” Carver, wife of Moses Carver – Mr. Carver would have never been able to accomplish all that he did. He was further inspired to pursue the life he desired by Mariah Watkins, who told him, “You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people.”

Indeed, that is precisely what Mr. Carver did during his life. I am reminded of this when I visit the elementary students we serve across Duval County, including at the very elementary school that bears Mr. Carver’s name. Their future is boundless, their pursuit of knowledge can be infinite, and they can embrace total freedom like never before – so long as they have the ability to read. This is precisely why we do what we do at READ USA, and why our partners, supporters, and donors continue to invest in our work.

As we celebrate as a community of Americans tomorrow, let us please remember to keep the freedoms we experience top of mind – not only because our constitution grants them, but because literacy empowers us to pursue them. We must keep the momentum we have built moving forward. The more people that READ USA can reach and serve in our community, the more that people across our neighborhoods and beyond can enjoy the full range of freedoms we have in this great country.

As Mr. Carver said, literacy and education are indeed keys to freedom and keys to opening doors that any child wants to open in his or her future. Our job at READ USA is to further empower and inspire them – through reading, books, and the pursuit of knowledge – to open those doors.

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Dr. Robert H. Kelly

READ USA President & CEO

Patricia McElroy, 2024 READ to Lead Award Honoree

Patricia McElroy, VyStar Foundation President and Senior Vice President of VyStar Credit Union, is our 2024 READ to Lead Award Honoree! Recognized at our upcoming Peace in the Pages in Honor of Roseann Duran luncheon on Oct. 2, the READ to Lead Award honors an individual who exhibits the bravery and willingness to lead – especially when such leadership is difficult.

 Patti McElroy JJ Book Reception – 6.20 (13)  

Patricia – or Patti as she prefers to be called – was destined for leadership ever since she was the youngest of four born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her parents instilled a sense of community and responsibility to care for others in Patti and her three older brothers. Her Aunt Tess, a teacher, and Uncle Merritt lived across the street, and Aunt Tess spent many hours reading with Patti and acting out the parts of each book they read together. “Aunt Tess made the books come alive by reading in each character’s voice,” Patti shared with Jeremy, our fictional Jeremy’s Journey storyteller, for her book. She also remembers, “…sitting on my dad’s lap and reading the newspaper when I was a toddler. We read the ‘funnies’ in the newspaper. Later, he taught me how to read the stock market report.” But most importantly, Patti shared about her family, “They were always focused on something greater than themselves.”

That is a thread that has woven through Patti’s entire life and career, which led her in several different directions. As she was wrapping up her incredibly involved primary and secondary education, her AP English teacher encouraged Patti to go into law school. She told Jeremy, “Ms. Hirt awakened the passion in me. Her attitude was, ‘of course you can do this – the world would miss you if you didn’t go for it.’” Patti then attended Temple University’s School of Law before becoming a commercial litigator for 15 years. But something greater was calling Patti. While practicing law, Patti learned two of the most valuable lessons of her life: to trust a system of justice that works and to understand how principles of law protect the least of us. But she wanted to discover what was beyond the principles of law created by humans.

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Patti JJ Book 5  Patti JJ Book 1

Patti decided to attend Yale Divinity School, and after graduating from higher education for a second time, she became an ordained Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2007. She was ordained in the very church in Springfield, Penn. where her parents taught Sunday school.

Patti’s career then took her to UNC Health where she was a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) educator and administrator. Here, she met her lifetime partner, Elyse, and together they relocated to Tacoma, Washington, where Patti continued as an educator and administrator – and began racing 40-ft. sailing yachts in Puget Sound with Elyse and their two dogs. They relocated again to Jacksonville in 2016, when Patti joined Baptist Health to run their spiritual care department, before later joining VyStar Credit Union in 2021. Patti’s tenacity for helping people and serving others through leadership has only increased throughout her career journey – and she credits reading as the key to unlocking it all.

As an avid reader and an exceptional leader, Patti told Jeremy, “The road to empathy and possibility comes when you lay your eyes on the words that describe experiences of others. Whether fiction or nonfiction, it is an intimate experience. I found that the experience of empathy comes within your own imagination and heart. The world is opened within a child’s mind when they are reading.
That’s what READ USA is doing: helping students to experience a world outside themselves and process meaning inside of their heads and hearts. There is nothing more important.”

We believe there is nothing more important as well, Patti! READ USA is so grateful for your leadership and community stewardship and for you being a beacon of inspiration to all who cross your path! We are thrilled to honor and recognize all that you do.

You can read more about Patti by ordering her Jeremy’s Journey book here for $20/copy and coordinating pickup with READ USA.

We look forward to recognizing all of our 2024 Peace in the Pages in Honor of Roseann Duran Award Honorees on Oct. 2 at EverBank Stadium!


Baptist Health Gives Inside Look to Summer Leadership Academy

Our Summer Leadership Academy tutors experienced an inside look at how the healthcare system operates, thanks to the exceptional leaders (and readers!) at Baptist Health!

Last week, Baptist Health leadership joined our tutors at FSCJ’s downtown campus for a panel discussion that showed tutors how there are many other essential roles in addition to doctors and nurses that keep a hospital operating smoothly. While the panelists did discuss nursing and other clinical roles and responsibilities, they also discussed how professionals from a variety of trades play a role in the hospital system, including imaging, surgical, and lab technicians; food services; hospitality; construction; engineering; environmental technicians; and others.

“Our tutors’ eyes were opened by how many career opportunities exist in hospital systems,” said Ashlea Jones, READ USA’s Workforce Development Director who oversees the Summer Leadership Academy. “Our panelists were incredible in giving such a detailed, inside look at these opportunities, while also stating how there is an immediate need for some types of positions. All of it was very interesting and exciting to our tutors – some of whom were inspired to explore more right out of high school!”

READ USA is grateful to Baptist Health and its inspiring leaders for taking the time to join our tutors last week! Many, many thanks to:

  • Nicole Thomas, Hospital President, Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville
  • Kyle Dorsey, Hospital President, Baptist Medical Center South
  • Marlow Levy, VP of Operations, Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville
  • Zena McLaughlin, Director of Imaging, Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville
  • Caryn Parkhurst, Nursing Director, Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville

Check out some photos from last week’s panel discussion and stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks!

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Children’s Book: My Fourth of July, by Jerry Spinelli

Illustrated by Larry Daybook

Picnics! Singing! Fireworks! It’s time to celebrate the best day of all – the Fourth of July!

Newberry Medalist Jerry Spinelli and award-winning illustrator Larry Day join forces to celebrate America’s birthday, the Fourth of July.

An energetic young child breathlessly narrates the day, from waking up bursting with excitement to conking out after the fireworks. The child helps prepare the picnic (hot dogs and cherry pie) and loads it into the little red wagon. A train festooned with bunting and pulled by a steam engine crosses Main Street. Once at the park, the family picnics and partakes in all the traditional Fourth of July activities, including face painting, sack racing, a concert in the bandstand, a visit to the zoo and, of course, the fireworks. Jerry Spinelli’s text combines a childlike voice (“Mama hands me a banana. I’m so excited I forgot to eat breakfast.”) with poetic fervor (“My eyes cannot hold the wonders I see. My heart is cheering.”).

This enjoyable account of the celebrations of the Fourth of July will bring back pleasant memories for many people. A beautifully illustrated, nostalgic, and patriotic book which reminds us of the values of family and country that unite us.

 Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Parent Education Corner: July Summer Reading Calendar

If you’re looking for fun summer activities that also build literacy skills, we have you set! Check out our Summer Reading Calendar for July and enjoy some family fun with books!


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!


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