This Week at READ USA

Multicultural Literacy

READ USA Visits Elementary Schools for Celebrate Literacy Week

  • Read USA Inc.
  • January 24 2024

Celebrate Literacy Week is happening this week at public schools across the state, and naturally, READ USA has been thrilled to participate! Plus, we have been quite excited about this year’s theme: Believe In Your “Shelf,” as it aligns perfectly with our READ USA mission and work.

This week, our READ USA team members and volunteers have been visiting DCPS elementary schools across the district to do Read Alouds with PreK through 5th-grade students. Seeing children engaged in a book that interests them is precisely why we do what we do at READ USA, and we absolutely love the opportunity to read to students!

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Many thanks to the leadership, teachers, and support staff at these elementary schools for hosting us – and for those we haven’t visited, we look forward to seeing you this week!

  • Annie R. Morgan Elementary
  • Arlington Elementary
  • Lake Lucina Elementary
  • Long Branch Elementary
  • Rutledge H. Pearson Elementary
  • S.A. Hull Elementary

#ICYMI: For those who also wish to Celebrate Literacy Week at home, we’ve compiled some easy and fun activities that parents, caregivers, and even siblings can do at home to make reading fun and engaging. You can check them out here (and don’t worry about the dates – you can do these activities in any order or any day of the year!).    

This Saturday: Join Us at the River City Readers Kickoff

Join us this Saturday, January 27 for the official kickoff of 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 (303 N. Laura St.)

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, Cornbread, and the PBS Kids characters!

Register to attend the kick-off event at We look forward to seeing you there!

Also, #ICYMI, Mayor Deegan discussed the event yesterday with Joy Purdy on News4JAX’s The Morning Show. Check it out here!

READ USA Presents at Florida Literacy Association Conference

This past weekend, several of our READ USA team members participated in the Florida Literacy Association’s (FLA) annual conference in Orlando. As a statewide professional organization of educators and literacy experts, FLA – the largest literacy organization and conference in Florida – provides teachers with tools and resources to improve reading and literacy in classrooms across the state. Our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly, who currently serves as FLA’s Literacy Chair and has been actively involved in FLA leadership and events for years, also served as Conference Co-Chair this year.


As a sponsor, READ USA provided information, resources, and 500+ free children’s books to the educators and literacy coaches who attended from across Florida, and our Chief Programs Officer Tabetha Cox presented a session about “Text Comprehension: From Low Cognitive Complexity to Deep Critical Thinking.”

During the session, Tabetha addressed the appropriate times to expect more from a reader and when deep critical thinking through book discussion should begin. Her presentation dove into the essential elements of teaching reading comprehension through building knowledge, engaging in discussion, and integrating reading and writing. She also addressed examples from READ USA’s programming and responded to a variety of questions and positive feedback from attendees. We are thankful for all who engaged with our team on this and other important topics during the Conference!

Dr. Kelly Introduces READ USA to River Club Luncheon Attendees

Yesterday, our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly met with River Club members and their guests during the Leadership Luncheon Series, and our team had a wonderful time introducing READ USA to new folks. We are so grateful to those who took the time to join us yesterday to learn about how we are closing the literacy gap in Duval County!

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A great question was asked, among several, about READ USA’s plans to scale and grow to reach even more students across Florida and the country. And the short answer is, YES! Scaling regionally and nationally has always been a part of the READ USA vision. Currently, in addition to nearly doubling the number of Duval County Public Schools where Literacy Tutoring takes place this semester, READ USA has been working with partners to launch a Literacy Tutoring pilot program in South Florida in 2024. We are also launching our free READ USA Book Fairs at selects schools in South Florida as well.

While these may seem like small steps, each step we take has exponential impact on every student we reach through READ USA’s programming – so onward and upward we go! For those who continue to join us on this journey, our gratitude is boundless.

Thank You, Kids Hope Alliance!

This morning, during the Kids Hope Alliance’s (KHA) January Board meeting, our CEO Dr. Rob Kelly had the honor of presenting an update about READ USA’s programming to KHA Board members, staff, and community partners in attendance. Specifically, Dr. Kelly shared insights and the latest impact results from READ USA’s Literacy Tutoring program, for which KHA provides funding.

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With Mayor Deegan’s River City Readers Challenge kicking off this weekend and with Celebrate Literacy Week also occurring this week, our participation in today’s meeting was very timely! We are so thankful to KHA’s leadership for inviting READ USA to be this month’s Partner Presentation, and more importantly, we are immensely grateful for KHA’s and the City of Jacksonville’s investment in and support of Literacy Tutoring and our comprehensive programming.

A special THANK YOU to CEO Dr. Saralyn Grass, Board Chair Marsha Oliver, and the entire KHA Board and Staff!   

Children’s Book: Watercress, by Andrea Wang

Illustrated by Jason Chin watercress_large

A story about the power of sharing memories—including the painful ones—and the way our heritage stays with and shapes us, even when we don’t see it.

Driving through Ohio in an old Pontiac, a young girl’s parents stop suddenly when they spot something growing in a ditch by the side of the road…watercress! With an old paper bag and some rusty scissors, the whole family wades into the muck to collect as much of the muddy, snail-covered plant as they can. At first, it’s embarrassing. Why can’t her family get food at the grocery store? But when her mother shares the story of her family’s life in China, the girl learns to appreciate the fresh food they foraged. Together, they make a new memory of watercress in this tender story inspired by the author’s childhood memories and illustrated by Caldecott Honor artist Jason Chin.

Author Andrea Wang calls this moving, autobiographical story “both an apology and a love letter to my parents.” It’s a touching, thoughtful look at how sharing the difficult parts of our histories can create powerful new moments of family history and help connect us to our roots.

Submitted by Kathi Hart, READ USA Content Specialist


Parent Education Corner: Fun Tips to Teach Sight Words for a Love of Reading

As a parent, you may have heard the terms “sight words,” “high frequency words,” or “heart words,” but might not really know what they mean. We read sight words every day without thinking about it. They are words like “the,” “was,” “where,” and “of” for example, which are very common but not easy to sound out.

How can you tell if your child is ready to start learning sight words? Here are a few easy signs to watch for in your little one. They:

  • Show an interest in books
  • Recognize some or all letters
  • Can hear the sounds in words (such as knowing when words rhyme)
  • Express an eagerness to learn how to read

Before your child can practice, you need to know what age-appropriate sight words to work on. The Dolch Sight Word List breaks down the main 220 high frequency words by grade level. Here is an example.













1st Grade






2nd Grade







Here are a few tips for helping your child master sight words:

  1. Go on word hunts – You want your child to understand that sight words are everywhere. One way you can do this is have them go on word hunts. When you are out and about, ask them to keep their eyes peeled for high-frequency words. Encourage them to look at signs for words they can read. When they find one, offer plenty of praise for their discovery.
  2. Make word soup – Don’t worry. There’s no cooking involved in this game! Instead, your child will be stirring together a pot full of sight words. To play, write some sight words on index cards. Write one word on each card in large letters so it’s easier for your child to read. Then, take out a big soup pot and a large spoon. When you have your materials gathered, hide 5 index cards around the room. Then, call you child over. Ask them to find the cards and add them to your soup pot. As they find each word, have them read it aloud, dump it into the pot, and give it a stir with the spoon. When all the cards have been added to the soup pot, use the spoon to fish out a word and ask your child to read it. Continue scooping out words until they’ve read them all.
  3. Sight word toss – Write each sight word on its own sticky note and then stick the words to the floor. Get a soft toy and stand a few feet away from the words. Choose a word and say it aloud. Your child must toss the toy so that it hits the correct word. Your turn next! Your child picks a word for you to hit. You can play to see who reaches a set number of points or who has the most points after five or six rounds.

Games like these are easy to play, require very little equipment, and are effective. The more you play these or similar games, the faster your child will learn lots of sight words, which will make them stronger, more confident readers over time.

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!