This Week at READ USA

Multicultural Literacy

Meet Jeremy’s New Friend, Principal Katie Adkins

  • Read USA Inc.
  • February 21 2024

READ USA’s fictional storyteller and namesake of the Jeremy’s Journey book series recently published his latest story featuring the inspirational leader of Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary School, Principal Katie Adkins!


Jeremy sat down with Principal Adkins to learn her story and why she is so passionate about education, her students, and her community.

A Jacksonville native, Principal Adkins grew up in Mandarin when, at 12 years old, she knew she wanted to become a lifelong educator. Her U.S. History teacher, Miss Carson, made the subject so fun and interesting that her students felt they were part of the history she was teaching. “I was captured! That got me into education, and I never looked back,” declared Principal Adkins.

Throughout her 22-year career – which spanned teaching 3rd and 4th grade students and serving as a reading coach, assistant principal, and finally principal of Sally B. Mathis Elementary School before joining the newly built Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary – Principal Adkins has remained grounded in servant leadership. “You can’t lead others without wanting to serve them. It is important to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and find out where they want to go and how fast they want to get there. Then, help them achieve their goals,” she told Jeremy.

Rutledge Pearson Elementary_large

Photo courtesy of Duval County Public Schools.

Jeremy’s book about Principal Adkins’ is now available to order, but that’s not all!

Principal Adkins is also READ USA’s 2024 Peace in the Pages Marjorie Broward Memorial Scholarship Award Honoree! She, along with six other award honorees, will be recognized during our Peace in the Pages luncheon on Oct. 2, 2024. As the Marjorie Broward Memorial Scholarship Award Honoree, Principal Adkins will receive a $2,500 book grant, which – as she told Jeremy – will help her achieve her goal to, “take this brand-new, big school and increase the proficiency

of my students in reading and math – to develop well-rounded children, academically, socially and emotionally.”

Click below to order your copy of Principal Adkin’s story for $20 and view or order any other Jeremy’s Journey volume from the past two years. You can obtain a full year’s volume set for $240.

Place Your Order


Junior Lit Chat Fun at the Library!

This past weekend, the READ USA team participated in some family fun at the Jacksonville Public Library!

On Saturday, the Library invited local children’s book author Brittany Jones – who recently published her first children’s book, Mike the Friendly Firefighter: The Wild Car Fire – for a Lit Chat with local children and special guests, including Mayor Donna Deegan!

BD4FCDBF-0F88-4278-816C-E21605A273D0_large  IMG_1488_large


During the event, Brittany discussed her new book and how it was inspired by her late fiancée, Jacksonville Fire & Rescue Dept. firefighter Mike Freeland. She also gave free copies of her book to the first 50 children in attendance, while READ USA also distributed free books – including copies of Mayor Donna Deegan’s very own Jeremy’s Journey book!

Learn more about Brittany Jones, her book, and the Library’s Lit Chat events here.

Many thanks to the Jacksonville Public Library and Mayor Deegan’s River City Readers Challenge for inviting READ USA to participate – and a special thank you to Brittany Jones for being such an inspirational speaker, writer, and citizen! 


Tracy Suter Joins READ USA Team

Please join us in welcoming Tracy Suter – our new Bookkeeping and Compliance Coordinator who has a deep passion for books and childhood education – to the READ USA team!

Tracy Suter_largeIn her role, Tracy is responsible for supporting READ USA program directors with tracking grant-funded program budgets and reporting on program expenditures, ensuring alignment and compliance with grant requirements. She also supports READ USA leadership with new employee onboarding, payroll, and general accounting duties.

Prior to READ USA, Tracy worked at the Charles Webb Wesconnett Regional Library within the Jacksonville Public Library system as a customer experience associate in the children’s department. Driven by her love for books and reading, Tracy helped library patrons identify and procure materials relevant to their interests and age-appropriate reading levels. She also played an active role in moderating youth programs and promoting the library’s programming and resources within the community.

Wesconnett Library









Photo courtesy of Jacksonville Public Library.

Before joining the Jacksonville Public Library, Tracy ran her own virtual assistant company and supported small business owners with website, email marketing, bookkeeping, and administrative tasks. She previously performed similar responsibilities as a virtual assistant for First Coast Virtual Assistants, providing ongoing administrative support and managing short-term projects for business executives and their teams.

Tracy has a passion for childhood education, and from 2011-2019, she homeschooled her children through elementary school and taught a range of classes for multiple other children through a homeschool co-op. During this time, she also volunteered in a number of leadership roles with MOPS, an international nonprofit that supports mothers of young children through peer-support groups and other resources. She also served as a manager and educational coordinator for the Old Florida Museum in St. Augustine, which offers an interactive, hands-on museum experience for school groups, where she was responsible for nearly all day-to-day operations.

Tracy is known among her family and friends to participate in various reading challenges throughout the year while cultivating a passion for reading with her children. She frequently reads with her children – last year, they finished the Harry Potter series together – and she is an avid listener of audio books. Tracy earned her bachelor’s in human development with a concentration on early childhood education from Cornell University.

#ICYMI: Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole on Looking Back, to Go Forward

“I strongly believe that each of us – no matter how differently we present to the world – each of us, in some strong measure, is who we are because of who we have been.” -Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole

#ICYMI: Last month, the legendary Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole – who will be our keynote speaker at this year’s Peace in the Pages event on Oct. 2, 2024 – took the time to visit READ USA Literacy Tutoring and meet with the teen tutors, teachers, and students at Lake Lucina Elementary School. During the inspirational visit that captivated the room full of budding young minds, Dr. Cole also sat down with our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly to discuss her experiences and perspectives on life, literacy – and the importance of knowing where you come from.

Of particular relevance during Black History Month, Dr. Cole reflected on her family’s legacy in Northeast Florida and the importance of, “looking back in order to go forward.”

Watch Dr. Cole address how it was not only her family who helped raise her in Jacksonville:


Dr. Cole addressed many other important topics that we look forward to sharing in the future. We are immensely grateful for Dr. Cole’s embrace of READ USA’s work in the community!

Children’s Book: African Proverbs For All Ages, by Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole and Nelda LaTeef

Illustrated by Nelda LaTeefAfrican Proverbs_large

African Proverbs For All Ages is a beautifully illustrated, engaging picture book about the power of proverbs, how they evolve over time, and the wisdom of various cultures in Africa.

It has been said that a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience.

The book’s premise is that each of the 16 double-page spreads includes a piece of Nelda Lateef’s stunning artwork and features four different proverbs. Each of the proverbs are connected to the artwork, somehow, but readers will get to guess which one best captures the essence of the illustration. This concept sets readers up for a conversation and helps them take a deeper look at the meanings of each proverb.

“Whether you are young or old, proverbs can open your mind to a whole new way of seeing the world. We underestimate children when we assume they are incapable of understanding metaphor and deeper meaning. There are multiple ways that children learn, but for each method by which they learn, they need their imagination engaged and their visual sensibilities ignited. And as adults, we underestimate ourselves when we allow our lives to be about practical matters only. Proverbs can stir our soul and spark our imagination.”

–Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, President Emerita of Spelman and Bennett Colleges

Dr. Cole will be our keynote speaker at READ USA’s Peace in the Pages event on Oct. 2, 2024 – a perfect opportunity to meet and listen to her inspirational life and perspective!

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist

Parent Education Corner: Family Friendly Strategies for Building Decoding Skills

In literacy, “decoding” refers to breaking down unfamiliar words into smaller chunks to figure out how to pronounce them and understand their meaning. These skills are a core anchor for all other reading abilities a child needs to develop into a strong reader. To successfully decode written text, students need to know:

  • What sound or sounds each letter in the alphabet makes.
  • How to take apart the sounds in a word and blend them.
  • How groups of letters can work together to make a single sound.

Here are family-friendly strategies for building decoding skills in reading:

  1. Sound it out creatively:
    What could be more fun for a young learner than sounding out a word in a silly voice? This activity is perfect for helping preschoolers get kindergarten ready.
    Example: Talk like robots on the way to school. Say the word “cat” to your child, emphasizing each sound using a robot voice (c-a-t). Then ask your child to try.
  2. Play with rhymes:
    Rhyming is a fun way to build essential reading skills! Rhyming helps children hear the sounds in words and discover that words can share the same ending.
    Example: Rhyme along with daily activities. As you zip your child’s coat, call out words that rhyme with “zip” (lip, flip, trip, sip). Can your child add a word?
  3. Clap or tap out words:
    Words have different beats (syllables). There are short words like CAT (1 syllable) and long words like CRO-CO-DILE (3). Clapping the beats helps your child sound words out.
    Example: As you fill the tub, say, “Let’s clap the names of things we see, and count how many beats.” SOAP (1 clap), WA-TER (2 claps), SHAM-POO (2 claps).
  4. Practice spelling:
    Children often spell new words based on how they sound. They may not always spell them correctly, but that’s okay. Spelling by sound is key to learning!
    Example: As your child gets dressed, say, “How do you think you spell the word ‘pants’?” Encourage them to really sound the word out as they say each letter. The next step is to have your child write the word “pants” on a slip of paper and tape it to the place where they keep their pants.

Enjoy these activities with your child, knowing that you are playing a critical role in the development of their literacy skills.

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!