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Reading in CMS: Who’s doing what, and what can you do?

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann Clark is leading a push to help kids read.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Superintendent Ann Clark is leading a push to help kids read. Courtesy of CMS

As Superintendent Ann Clark seeks to rally Mecklenburg County around reading, it turns out one of the first challenges is to figure out who’s already doing what.

I stumbled on that gap a few weeks ago, when Betty Howell Gray with the National Alliance of Black School Educators sought coverage of the group’s push to recruit volunteers for early literacy. I wished her luck, but told her the group would join a healthy roster of others involved in the cause.

Jarrod Jones, who’s working with Gray, followed up with an obvious question: Could I give him a list so they could synchronize efforts?

I passed Jones along to LaTarzja Henry, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools assistant superintendent in charge of community partnerships. Surely, I thought, CMS would have a master list.

Nope. But the district is working with Read Charlotte, a community initiative recently launched with support from the Foundation for the Carolinas, to create one.

“I think we are in a wonderful place now to begin to be more strategic about how to deploy organizations and individuals who have an interest in helping all Charlotte become more literate,” Henry said.

Munro Richardson, executive director of Read Charlotte, agreed: “I’m not sure yet how long it will take us to finish this project, but we hope to make considerable progress by the end of the year.”

For those who want to get involved, share what they’re doing or follow progress, click here for Read Charlotte and here for the CMS North Star Reading Partners program.

For those of us who can’t take on a major project – or even meet Clark’s challenge to volunteer one hour a week working one-on-one with a struggling reader – I liked her recent suggestion for something anyone can do. When we talk with students, she suggested replacing lame conversation-starters like “How’s school?” with “What are you reading now?”

I’m also getting a kick out of the district’s “Bookmarks” series to get staffers talking literature. Clark said she had just finished Nora Roberts’ “The Liar” (melodramatic romance – who knew?) and was moving on to Paula Hawkins’ “The Girl on the Train.” She lists her all-time favorite book as the children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web.”

For my part, I just finished the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Community Read selection, “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” so I should be ready to keep up with local literary talks (click here to learn more about Community Read, including books for younger readers). I’ve moved on to Benjamin Percy’s “The Dead Lands,” which is nudging me to brush up on my history so I can track the parallels between the post-apocalyptic novel and the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Now if I can just find a student to impress ...

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms