This Week at READ USA

Book Choice and Ownership

READ USA Participates in MLK Week of Service

  • Read USA Inc.
  • January 17 2024

As part of their AmeriCorps service requirements, our AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders must volunteer in the community throughout the year – and what better time to do so than during the MLK Week of Service!

To kick it off, several of our AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders volunteered at last week’s 37th Annual MLK Breakfast presented by Florida Blue, which our READ USA team attended as well. It was a truly inspiring event that celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ethos of love, light, and strength through unity. We are grateful to the City of Jacksonville, the NAACP, the Jacksonville Urban League, and the Program Committee for creating a memorable, historic, and diverse gathering of Jaxsons to celebrate Dr. King! Many thanks to our AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders for lending their support during the event!

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There are more MLK Week of Service events through the rest of this week at which our AmeriCorps Tutor Leaders will continue their community volunteerism and engagement – and we look forward to sharing their thoughts about their experiences very soon!

 United Way of Northeast Florida has a full list of MLK Week of Service events on its website, which you can check out here.


Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole Visits READ USA Tutoring

Yesterday, the teachers, teen tutors, and students at Lake Lucina Elementary School were treated to something truly special: a visit from the legendary Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole!

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Dr. Cole, who will graciously serve as READ USA’s keynote speaker at this year’s Peace in the Pages event on Oct. 2, 2024, took time to meet with the captivated tutors and students. Not only did she briefly share her own educational journey to becoming an anthropologist, Dr. Cole also encouraged the tutors to share their own journeys, career aspirations, and their “why” for being a READ USA tutor. We immensely thank Dr. Cole for taking this valuable time with our tutors and students!

Dr. Cole also sat down with our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly to share her perspectives on life, literacy, and education. We look forward to sharing this powerful interview very soon.

Dr. Kelly to Speak at River Club Luncheon

At the River Club’s Leadership Luncheon Series event next week on January 23rd at 11:30 a.m., our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly will be a guest speaker and introduce those in attendance to READ USA!

The Leadership Luncheon Series, a benefit of membership at the River Club, provides exclusive, recurring networking and lunch-and-learn opportunities. During the event featuring Dr. Kelly, River Club members and their guests will learn how READ USA came to be and how the organization has scaled and grown significantly in recent years. He will also share a bit of his own professional background and journey – all grounded in early literacy, reading intervention, and children’s literature – and the evidence behind READ USA’s research-backed programming and the impact it is having on teens and students across Duval County.

We look forward to sharing an update and photos next week!

Join Us at the River City Readers Kickoff: Jan. 27th 

Mark your calendars for Mayor Deegan’s River City Readers!

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Less than half of 3rd graders are reading on grade level, so improving literacy rates is a top priority for Mayor Deegan and her administration. It’s an economic development issue, a public safety issue, and a quality-of-life issue for the entire city.

Let’s get DUUUVAL reading! Mayor Deegan’s River City Readers is a citywide literacy challenge for students of all ages that will run through 2024 and beyond. The challenge will launch at the Jacksonville Main Library at a special FREE event on Saturday, January 27th.

Register for the River City Readers Kick-Off Event HERE:

Saturday, January 27, 2024
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Main Library Downtown

Kickoff attendees will receive free books from READ USA to get them started, and see children’s author Vincent Taylor perform, along with a free boxed lunch and other activities and attractions, including Jaxson deVille and the PBS Kids characters!

Register to attend the kickoff event HERE. We look forward to seeing you there! 

Seeking Book Fair Lead Volunteers

The free, annual READ USA Book Fairs will commence again this spring at elementary schools across Duval County! As we begin to prepare for the nearly 100 book fairs we will be hosting, we are seeking volunteers to serve as Book Fair Lead Volunteers.

The Book Fair Lead Volunteer role is to ensure the book fairs function properly and smoothly with no burden on the schools or school staff. The lead is also the main point-of-contact at each school’s book fair and serves as a supervisor to other book fair volunteers. And, just as importantly, leads are there to make sure that every student, teacher, and volunteer has a fun and peaceful experience at the Book Fair!

READ USA Book Fair dates and individual school volunteer sign-up opportunities will be released soon, so stay tuned for the details! In the interim, if you already know you want to be a Book Fair Lead Volunteer at a school or schools, contact Dr. Barbara Lacey-Allen, READ USA’s Book Programs and Family Engagement director, at

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Children’s Book: The Word Collector, by Peter H. Reynolds

Written and illustrated by Peter H. ReynoldsWord Collector

The Word Collector is about a boy named Jerome and his discovery of words. While some children collect stamps, coins, rocks, and art, Jerome collects words. He fills his scrapbook with marvelous words that he sees, hears, and reads. He realizes that he can string the words together to create powerful phrases. Jerome uses his words to write poems and songs in the story.

The illustrations in the story are bright, colorful, and detailed in terms of visualizing the text. Jerome’s words are written on square sheets that reflect his imagination and creativity. This is a story that will inspire young children to collect words and build their vocabulary. It is easy to read and will help children understand the power and the magic of words.

Creativity is a big theme in this book. Jerome learns to be creative and expressive with his words. The more words Jerome knew provided him with the means of conveying clearly what he was thinking, feeling, and dreaming. This book is a great example for children to understand the value and power of words.

Submitted by Dr. Barbara Lacey-Allen, Books Programs and Family Engagement Director


Parent Education Corner: Five Methods for Teaching Children Communication Skills

Effective communication is a key life skill, and it’s important for us to help our children as they develop their communication skills from an early age. A child who can clearly communicate his or her thoughts, feelings, and ideas is more likely to perform better at school than a student who does not communicate effectively. Children with strong communication skills are also more likely to build healthy relationships with others as they encounter more opportunities to socialize with peers because they are better equipped to express themselves and convey their feelings more effectively. 

Just like with any other skill, your child’s communication skills can be improved with practice. Here’s a list of tips you can try to help your child develop strong communication skills. 

Encourage conversation as often as possible

As a parent, it’s important for you to encourage your child to begin or join in on conversations as much as possible. We know that as children develop and grow, they learn how to socialize by practicing their growing conversational skills, as they observe what works for them in different situations. But did you know that it’s also important for adults, especially parents, to help children practice these skills?

Start with casual conversations, such as the ones you may have while preparing a meal together or during a car ride. If you’re in the car together, you may chat about where you’re going, discuss the destination, and ask your child how he or she is feeling. If you’re working together in the kitchen, you can encourage conversation by talking about the recipe and the steps involved. Engage by answering your child’s questions, especially if you get the sense that your child is enthusiastic about being involved.

Listen to what your child has to say

Listening is also a vital skill for children to learn at an early age. A great way to teach your child about the importance of good listening skills is by modeling this behavior yourself. Active listening skills start with you as a parent in order to set an example for your child. When children are repeating what you say and mimicking your actions, it shows that repetition reinforces the behavior we want our children to learn. We see this when we teach our children about manners or how to act in social interactions (for example, saying “Hello” back to someone).

You can model good listening skills by paying attention to what your child says. Repeat back part of what your child has said to confirm your understanding. It’s also a good idea to follow up with a question. For example, you may say, “It looks like you had a great time during your art session. What kind of project do you plan to work on next time?”

Make conversations fun

Another tip for teaching good communication skills to children is to incorporate fun into conversations. There are days when it may feel challenging to come up with interesting topics. You can start by sharing a funny story or experience you had during the day. Then, encourage your child to share their own funny stories or talk about activities they did at school.

Teach children how to take turns

Because listening is part of effective communication, it’s important to teach your child how to wait for his or her turn to speak. You can practice this by using toys or playing games. For example, you may play a game in which the person holds the ball when it’s his or her turn to speak. Your child then waits for the ball to be passed to him or her before speaking.

Read with your child

Reading skills are an essential aspect of effective communication and overall language development. Reading skills benefit children in so many ways, including teaching new words, expanding their vocabulary, and enhancing their cognitive abilities. 

Research also shows that children who read regularly tend to be more empathetic toward others than children without exposure to the written word. When kids read, it enables them to experience the joy and pain of others through stories.

Good communication skills aren’t something that children are born with. This is where your role as a parent comes in. Follow these tips to help you teach your child about communication skills so he or she can be better equipped for success in school, and beyond. 

Submitted by Kathi Hart, Content Specialist

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