This Week at READ USA

Book Choice and Ownership

Leap Forward into National Reading Month

  • Read USA Inc.
  • February 28 2024

Fun Fact: Did you know that Leap Years – 2020, 2024, 2028, and so on – occur on the same years as U.S. Presidential elections and the Summer Olympics?

Plus, in just 11 days, we’ll be doing another leap forward with the start of Daylight Savings Time! (And you know what that means: an extra hour of sun in the evening to sit down with your favorite book!)

Tomorrow is Leap Day, and it’s a perfect time to Leap Forward into National Reading Month, celebrated in March every year. READ USA encourages parents, caregivers, and students themselves to use your “extra day of the year” tomorrow to get a head start on National Reading Month!

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National Reading Month is also an ideal time to either begin or participate in friendly reading challenges or activities. Naturally, READ USA and our partners provide some fun reading challenges, activities, and resources for you to enjoy during March:

Mayor Donna Deegan’s River City Readers Challenge

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Mayor Deegan’s River City Readers Challenge is in full swing! Launched in late January, Mayor Deegan set a citywide goal to log 300,000 minutes of reading in the Beanstack app. According to the Mayor’s office, after just a few weeks, Jacksonville is over halfway toward the goal! They plan to increase the goal soon, so now’s the perfect time to hop on the bandwagon and make your minutes count.

Click here for more details about the River City Readers Challenge and to download the Beanstack app.

READ JAX and Jacksonville Public Library Resources


READ JAX, our city’s grade-level reading campaign, offers a variety of resources for parents and guardians on its website here. Resources include BookSmart, a free digital library; PBS Learning Media; and the Parent Academy of Duval County Public Schools – plus so many more!

The Jacksonville Public Library also provides a number of Activities To Do At Home through the Traveling Tales Kit. You can download the kit here and check out a number of other activities and resources.

We wish everyone a wonderful National Reading Month!

READ USA Participates in Leadership Jax New Leadership Summit    

Last week, our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly had a special opportunity to participate in Leadership Jacksonville’s (LJ) New Leadership Summit. Intended for CEOs and senior-level executives who are new or relatively new to the community or their roles, the two-day Summit’s goal is to educate these executives about the region’s assets, issues, institutions, and leadership from a variety of sectors.

Dr. Kelly participated in the Nonprofit Round Robin on day two to discuss READ USA’s work and impact on solving illiteracy in our community. Alongside prestigious leaders from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, Blue Zones Jacksonville, Sulzbacher, and LIFT JAX – who each brought a unique perspective to the discussion – Dr. Kelly thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to discuss literacy and other key issues facing our community.


Many thanks to LJ CEO Gracie Simendinger and Programs Director Nicole Bryan (pictured above) for the gracious invitation to participate and share READ USA’s impact!

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing – and Read!    

Thanks to the support of the Friends of the Brentwood Library, the Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing celebration at Brentwood Library this past weekend was full of family fun!

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Celebrating the 124th anniversary of Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, the event included “A Place for All People” symposium, a performance by God’s Trombone, and a special appearance by Mayor Donna Deegan, who spoke about the importance of literacy. READ USA was honored to participate with the Mayor’s team to distribute Mayor Deegan’s River City Readers backpacks and free books to children in attendance – and we had so much fun doing so!

Thank you to the Friends of Brentwood Library for making the celebration possible, particularly Founder and Chair Mrs. Sharon Coon, pictured below with our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly. 


Congratulations to Dr. Lori Hershey!

The READ USA team would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to now-Dr. Lori Hershey, Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) Board Member for District 7!


DCPS Chief Academic Officer Paula Renfro, READ USA CEO Dr. Rob Kelly, and Lori Hershey during READ USA’s Mock Interview Day last year.

Last week, The Honorable Dr. Hershey successfully completed her dissertation defense with Grand Canyon University to officially receive her doctoral degree. Our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly, a doctoral graduate himself, knows firsthand how rigorous and challenging the pursuit of a doctoral degree can be, and how this is an exceptional accomplishment!

The Honorable Dr. Hershey is truly a champion for students and public education, having dedicated the past two decades to student service in a variety of capacities within the DCPS system. She is a former middle school teacher – just like some of our READ USA staff! – and beyond DCPS, serves on the Board of Directors for The Florida School Board Association and the Council of Great City Schools.

Read more about Dr. Hershey’s background here – and when you see her, give her a warm congratulations and expression of gratitude for her dedication to the students of Duval County!

Children’s Book: All from a Walnut, by Ammi-Joan Paquette

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All from a Walnut is a moving, multigenerational story about love, family roots, and the cycle of life.

When Emilia wakes up, she discovers a walnut on her nightstand. She brings the walnut to her grandfather, who tells her his story of leaving his childhood home at Lake Como and journeying to America, bringing a walnut seed with him to plant when he found a new home. He did just that, and when his daughter was old enough, she received her own walnut on her nightstand and planted it beside her father’s. Now it’s time for Emilia’s tree to join her grandfather’s and mother’s walnut trees in the backyard. But her grandfather dies before Emilia’s sapling is big enough to be planted outside. However, when she plants her tree beside her grandfather’s tree, she realizes that a part of him will be with her through stories and experiences they’ve shared through the years. Peek at this beautiful picture book that teaches the importance of the simple things. It’s this simplicity and tradition that makes family bonds and generational gaps not so simple after all.

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist


Parent Education Corner: Literacy Tips for Parents of Primary Grade Students

Find ways to read, write, and tell stories together with your child. Always applaud your young reader and beginning story writer! The tips below offer some fun ways you can help your child become a happy and confident reader and writer. Try a new tip each week and see what works best for your child.

  • Tell Family Tales
    Children love to hear stories about their family. Talk about a funny thing that happened when you were young.
  • Create a Writing Toolbox
    Fill a box with drawing and writing materials. Find opportunities for your child to write, such as the shopping list, thank you notes, or birthday cards.
  • Be Your Child’s #1 Fan
    Ask your child to read aloud what he or she has written for school. Be an enthusiastic listener.
  • One More Time with Feeling
    When your child has sounded out an unfamiliar word, have him or her re-read that sentence. Often children are so busy figuring out a word they lose the meaning of what they’ve just read.
  • Create a Book Together
    Fold pieces of paper in half and staple them together to make a book. Ask your child to write sentences on each page and add his or her own illustrations.
  • Use a Writing Checklist
    Have your child create a writing checklist with reminders such as, “Do all my sentences start with a capital?” Yes/No. “Do all my sentences end with a punctuation mark?” Yes/No.

Discover which of these tips works best for your child – and remember reading and writing at home should be fun!

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!