VWSD launches ‘Real People Read’ campaign Literacy initiative aims at getting adults to read, share stories with kids

Published 12:30 am Saturday, October 2, 2010

Friday, Mayor Paul Winfield’s reading materials weren’t legal and administrative but something a little different, and his audience was unusual, too.

Seated in a rocking chair in the library at Sherman Avenue Elementary with about 50 kindergartners around him, the mayor opened the book, “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves,” by Lucille Colandro, and began to read aloud.

“I’ve never read this book before,” Winfield told the kids.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

After the lady had swallowed leaves, a shirt and a pumpkin, he interrupted himself to say: “It’s exciting to turn from page to page. You don’t know what you’re going to find.”

He had the kids chiming in with a loud “a-choo!” on cue at the end of each page and giggling about each successive fall-related item the lady swallowed. Finally, after the surprise ending (read the book to find out) he was bowled over by a group hug.

Winfield was one of a dozen or so community leaders who took time out to help Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Duran Swinford launch Real People Read, a literacy initiative to bring adults into the schools to read to and share stories with students of all ages.

“We’re here today because we are celebrating something that’s important in your life,” Swinford told the kindergartners, whose teachers are Sally Owen and Cheryl Ricks. She told the students that she reads to her two grandchildren through video conferencing online.

Former VWSD superintendent Donald Oakes saw lots of hands raised when he asked the children if they like to take trips. “In this room, there is a ticket for you to go any place — near or far,” he said, adding that the school librarian can help them find the book to take them anywhere they want to go.

School board president Zelmarine Murphy got them to promise to read over the weekend — Friday nights, Saturday mornings and Sunday nights — and local NAACP president John Shorter reminded them that writing letters is another fun way to improve reading skills.

“You never stop learning,” Shorter said. “If you can read, you can do anything.”

Coming out in support were state Sen. Briggs Hopson III, Warren County District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, Chamber of Commerce executive director Christie Kilroy, insurance agents Robyn Lea and Kim Ferguson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public affairs officer Shirley Smith and school officials and principals.

The program was recorded for local cable channel 16, the district’s broadcast outlet, and Swinford included an appeal to adults to spend lots of time in the schools, sharing stories they love and letting the kids know how important reading has been and continues to be in their lives.

“This is technically a five-month program but it should be a forever and ever, amen, sort of program,” said Sherman Avenue principal Ray Hume.

Those who would like to come in and read to students can call their neighborhood school — including junior high and high schools — to get set up with a classroom, Swinford said. Any amount of volunteer time would be appreciated, she said.