Mayor Donna Deegan kicked off the first “River City Readers” in Downtown Jacksonville on Saturday. It’s a part of a year-long citywide challenge to improve literacy rates among school-aged children.
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The event brought Latonya Moore and her kids to the public library on North Laura Street. Kiana is in the first grade and said she loves to read princess books. She was excited to get more books for free and a brand-new backpack to put them in.
“[I like that] you can do stuff with [the backpack],” Kiana said.
Moore said it’s important for her kids to love and enjoy reading.
“Reading is fundamental. It is the key to everything and they’re going to need it,” Moore said.
The event had free face paint, backpacks, and books to motivate children to read for 20 minutes a day. According to Mayor Deegan, less than half of third graders in the city are reading on their grade level.
“If we can make it fine, and we can get kids really involved in reading, we really believe that we can really start impacting poverty in our city. If you can impact poverty, you can impact everything,” Deegan said.
Deegan said she plans to hold literacy events every month throughout the year. Those events will take place at schools, libraries, community centers and even a book mobile.
Kids can log their reading times on an app called “BeanStack” to participate. At the end of the year, the city’s top young readers will be awarded prizes, proving that reading is fundamental, fun, and rewarding.