This Week at READ USA

Peace In The Pages

Caleb Johnson, 2024 READ to Succeed Award Honoree

  • Read USA Inc.
  • June 5 2024


Jacksonville Jaguars Linebacker Caleb Johnson is our 2024 READ to Succeed Award Honoree! Recognized at our upcoming Peace in the Pages in Honor of Roseann Duran luncheon on Oct. 2, the READ to Succeed Award honors someone who embodies how reading fuels success in life.

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Just as he pursues victory on the football field like a “Ball Hawk,” Caleb is known among his family, friends, and colleagues as also being a “Book Hawk” because of his love of reading – even in the locker room. His passion for reading started early in life, when he would pick up his mom’s books as a toddler while she was studying for her associate degree, trying to sound out words and read them. He also read frequently to his youngest of two brothers, two favorites of theirs being Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Magic Tree House books.

Caleb grew up in a military family and frequently relocated, so, “I got used to being the new kid in class,” Caleb shared with Jeremy, READ USA’s fictional namesake storyteller of the Jeremy’s Journey book series, when his book was published earlier this year. “It wasn’t always easy, and I think it helped me adjust to new situations in life and my career.” He credits both of his parents as excellent role models who were fully present in his life.

Caleb’s competitive spirit also developed early in him. He remembers well his first day playing tackle football when he learned a valuable lesson that’s stuck with him through today. He made a great play and then got completely run over the next play, but he dusted himself and got back in the game. “You can love the game, but the game doesn’t have to love you back. I’m competitive and I love to win, so I just keep going,” he told Jeremy.

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Caleb went on to play football in high school and college, winning several awards along his journey, including the Leadership Award, Captain Award, and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award. While in college, he met the two most important people in his life, saying “I met my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…and I also met the love of my life, Jade, who became my wife.” They married in Atlantic Beach in February of 2023 after he was picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022. “He was the guy we targeted,” Jacksonville Jaguars Special Teams Coordinator Heath Farwell told Jeremy. “He’s exceeded expectations.”

Caleb’s love of reading has only grown deeper during his football career. He’s currently writing and illustrating his own children’s book, titled The Candlemaker. He has also been a strong supporter of nonprofit organizations focused on early childhood literacy, including READ USA and also serving as vice president of The Good People’s Foundation, which is focused on literacy and community enrichment.

“I love READ USA,” Caleb told Jeremy emphatically. “The mission is wonderful, and our kids have someone looking out for them.” Caleb has been a READ USA Book Fair sponsor and volunteer and has also participated in several Literacy Locker Rooms through the Jacksonville Jaguars where players come to local elementary schools to host a literacy pep-rally, read alouds, and a book giveaway with READ USA. In reflecting on his passion for youth, reading, and READ USA’s efforts to promote literacy, Caleb told Jeremy, “Effort is the number one thing no one can teach you to do. In football and in life, you must always do your best and never let yourself or your teammates down. Remember that your effort is about something bigger than you!”

We agree 100%, Caleb, and couldn’t have said it better ourselves! We are grateful for your involvement with us and your commitment to our youth and literacy! We are so excited to celebrate you in October.

You can read more about Caleb Johnson by ordering his Jeremy’s Journey book for $20/copy from READ USA today!

We look forward to the 2024 Peace in the Pages in Honor of Roseann Duran event on Oct. 2 at EverBank Stadium. Stay tuned for more Peace in the Pages award honoree features in the coming weeks!


READ USA Celebrates Caleb Johnson at Jeremy’s Journey Book Reception

Last week, READ USA supporters were treated to something extra special: a visit to the Jacksonville Jaguars Owner’s Suite to celebrate the release of Linebacker Caleb Johnson’s Jeremy’s Journey biography!

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Caleb met Jeremy, the fictional namesake and storyteller of our Jeremy’s Journey book series, a couple of months ago and his book was officially launched last week at a private reception at EverBank Stadium.

The youngest person that Jeremy has met to date at 26 years old, Caleb shared his journey with playing football in his youth to becoming the professional linebacker he is today. And during every step of the way, Caleb’s passion for reading kept him moving. Today, he and his wife, Jade – who shares Caleb’s love of reading – are building a library in their home.


We are immensely grateful to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation for making this event – and it’s fantastic setting overlooking the football field – possible! Many thanks to Caleb for autographing copies of his book during the event, and also to his fellow teammates, Jaguars staff, and READ USA supporters who joined us! It was an evening to remember!

For $20, you can order a copy of Caleb’s Jeremy’s Journey book here and coordinate pickup with READ USA.

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READ USA Tutor Featured in Jax Today

Our very own READ USA Tutor L.J. Valenzuela was featured as the lead story in last Friday’s Jax Today newsletter, and we could not be prouder of his accomplishments or more excited about his future!

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Photo featured in May 31st edition of Jax Today, taken by Will Brown.

L.J. joined our Literacy Tutoring program in 2022, and he stayed with us for the entire academic year. Our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly spoke with Jax Today Reporter Will Brown for the story, saying L.J. has a “heart for justice.” He also shared, “[L.J.] strives to make sure that whatever he’s doing, however he invests in the community, it is to make it better. … When L.J. was tutoring with us, we immediately recognized his leadership skills and we relied on him to help us think through issues that we had with the tutoring program.”

L.J.’s accomplishments extend far beyond READ USA as well. He has produced a one-act play, achieved a 4.5 GPA, serves as an advocate for himself and his peers, and recently was an inaugural Thrive Scholar in Jacksonville. He will attend Brown University on a full scholarship this coming fall. Read the full article on Jax Today here.

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Congratulations on your well-deserved scholarship and graduation from Mandarin High School, L.J.! We cannot wait to see all that you accomplish in your future.

This Saturday: River City Readers Summer Kickoff Event!

AAIf you’re looking for some family fun this weekend, Mayor Donna Deegan’s River City Readers has you covered!

This Saturday, June 8th, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., books and activities will abound at Ed Austin Regional Park as “Adventure Awaits!”

READ USA will join Mayor Deegan, the Jacksonville Public Library, and our fellow literacy advocates and organizations for this family-focused book giveaway and live story time event.

READ USA will provide free children’s books and River City Readers Backpacks at the event – and we are looking for volunteers!

Volunteer shifts run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and include tasks such as book and backpack distribution, helping with costume characters, and others.

Click here to sign up and join us! We look forward to seeing you on Saturday!


“Tell those people thank you!”

Even though the annual READ USA Book Fairs wrapped up a couple weeks ago, our team and many others in the community are still relishing in the afterglow – as are the 53,000+ students who have been enjoying their free, brand-new books! (Though we do think some pages might be a little bent by now…)

To Karen Moore, media specialist at George W. Carver Elementary, the warmth and the thrill of the READ USA Book Fairs is particularly palpable every year. She has been the media specialist at George W. Carver Elementary since READ USA hosted its very first book fair at the school in 2011 – which was not only READ USA’s first book fair, but the school’s very first as well.


Karen with our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly at this year’s George W. Carver Elementary Book Fair in late May.

“The fact that READ USA Book Fairs are now everywhere, that was the dream back then,” Karen, who is also the media specialist at Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary, shared with us. “It was amazing when the fairs were expanded so more children could experience it. It brings a new love of reading to all children.”

Karen has also been a kindergarten, first- and third-grade teacher during her 30 years in education, so she’s seen how the impact of book fairs on students extends far beyond the fairs themselves. “Students come in and choose their books, and they don’t put them down. It’s hard to put into words, but their noses are glued to them from the beginning. I could put the same books on media center bookshelves, but it wouldn’t have near the same impact.”

In fact, it was a second-grader who this year nearly brought tears to her eyes during the READ USA Book Fair. “One student told me, ‘Tell those people thank you! My family works really hard, and I buy things from discount bins, but at the book fairs I can pick whatever I want and it’s mine!’ Those comments he made really show the impact and how the book fair made him feel. He didn’t feel rich or poor, but he felt valued that someone thought about him,” Karen reflected. “It was really heartfelt.”

When asked about how the READ USA Book Fairs level the playing field for all students, Karen said, “The impact is tangible for all children. That’s why their noses don’t come out of their books when they get them. I have to ask, ‘would you please close your books?!’ so they focus. I understand they want to read… and what a terrific problem to have.”

Thank you, Karen, for sharing your reflections with us – and for being with READ USA from the very beginning! We are immensely grateful for your support and embrace of READ USA Book Fairs, and for all you do every day for our students.

Children’s Book: Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

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In this bestselling and internationally beloved picture book, the local Pet Club won’t admit a boy’s tiny pet elephant, so he finds a solution—one that involves all kinds of unusual animals.

This is a touching picture book about a boy and his small pet elephant. The boy realizes that having such an unconventional pet singles him out, yet he doesn’t waver in his friendship and loyalty. The pair look out for one another: when the elephant is scared of stepping on the cracks in the pavement, the boy carries him; when the boy is sad, the elephant faces those fears to walk alongside him, because that’s what friends do.

They plan to attend Pet Club but feel dejected when the Pet Club won’t let them in, and an angry sign— “Strictly No Elephants”—explains why. Heading home in the rain, the boy and his elephant spot a girl with her skunk. “They don’t want us to play with them either,” she says. “What if we start our own club?” Observant children will spot a porcupine, penguin, and giraffe peering from brownstone windows along the way; they and their children join others with equally exotic pets. Taeeun Yoo’s concluding scenes depict a treehouse occupation (its restrictive message changed to “ALL ARE WELCOME”).

In this picture book, Lisa Mantchev examines true friendship, sprinkling observations about the behavior of the boy and his elephant throughout and punctuating them with the refrain, “Because that’s what friends do.” Strictly No Elephants is an uplifting tale about friendship, diversity and inclusiveness.

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Parent Education Corner: Reading vs. Memorizing Words

Helping Your Child Become a Reader

The Parent Corner is continuing to provide information to parents/caregivers about how you can help young learners become readers and writers.

This week’s focus is: My child is ‘reading’ – but has just memorized the words. Now what?

It’s music to a parent’s ears as your little one picks up a book you’ve read aloud hundreds of times and begins to “read” while their eyes stay laser-focused on you. We realize that our child has memorized the words. It’s a common phase and a sign that your child is ready to take the next step on their reading journey.

Here are a few next steps to keep your child’s interest in reading at an all-time high:

  1. Teach the concept of a word

Help your child learn that each spoken word can be matched to a printed word. We also want our young learners to notice that each word is separate, and words are separated by spaces.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to take a line from a memorized book and write it nice and big on a piece of paper. Underneath each word, color a dot or place a sticker. Now, model how to point to each dot as you say one word at a time. Have your child point to each dot as they “read” the memorized text. Here’s an example from Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.

PECEventually, when your child is learning to read on their own, this exercise will help them track words as they sound them out. You can also take it a step further and have your child count the words, count the letters in a word, and point out a short word and a long word in the sentence. This helps them learn the difference between letters and words.

  1. Use letters to identify words

If your child has the needed knowledge, encourage them to use the first letter of a word to help identify the word. For example, if a picture shows an animal that could be either a mouse or a rat. If a child knows the sound for the letter M and is looking at the word “mouse” in the book, it is useful to encourage the child to think about what the first sound in the word will be and then ask, “Could this word be rat or mouse? Your right that word is mouse!”

  1. Talk about what’s happening

Be sure to talk about what is happening in the books. From early on, we want children to understand that the purpose of print is to communicate. The goal is for beginning readers to view reading as pleasurable and interesting and inspire them to develop a love of reading.

Stay tuned for more information next week!

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!