In observance of Read Across America Day, DeSoto ISD held an African American Read-In with “the grandmother of Juneteenth”, Dr. Opal Lee, and all district second-grade students in the DeSoto High School auditorium. This event also launched the district’s month-long March Student Reading Challenge.
During the event, the audience of about 300-second graders viewed a brief historical account of Juneteenth and saw the remarkable journey of Dr. Lee to ensure that June 19 became a Federal Holiday before listening to her read-aloud book, “Juneteenth: A Children’s Story.”
Following the presentation, students applauded the work of Dr. Lee, asked questions, and each student received a personal copy of Dr. Lee’s book courtesy of a donation from the community-based organization Friends of DeSoto.
A brief conversation with the historical icon clarified her purpose for spending time with scholars.
“Reading is just so essential!” said Dr. Lee. “I just want to tell everyone to learn to read. If you cannot read, you cannot get anywhere, interact with others, or teach your children,” said Dr. Lee. as her goal for this visit to DeSoto ISD students.” You should start reading when you learn to walk.”
In addition to reading, Dr. Lee also admonished the students not to give up.
“Persistence. Stick-to-itiveness. Anything you decide is worthwhile for you, your family, or your community, do not let anything stop you. There will be roadblocks, and it may take a long time, but stick to it. It took me 40 years to get Juneteenth a holiday. But stick to it, come hail or high water.”
In DeSoto ISD, there is a strong focus on literacy in the early childhood curriculum, and district trustees have established board goals to focus on increasing early learning student outcomes.
With this in mind, DeSoto ISD launched the March Reading Challenge for every second grader to read and log their hours for the entire month of March. To encourage participation at each campus, the top two second-grade students of the reading challenge students from each of the district’s campuses will have the opportunity to win a bike donated by district partners, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Friends of DeSoto, and others. Kappa Alpha Psi also secured 1,000 books from half-price books for students to add to their libraries.
DeSoto ISD Chief Academic Officer Stephanie McCloud, who coordinated the event, was pleased with the outcome for students.
“Today was an absolute treat! She brings so much wealth and knowledge. It is so exciting to have her in DeSoto ISD, she said. “Reading is so important. Everything that we do involves reading. When you are walking down the hallway, you have to be able to read the bulletin board. When looking at directions for your GPS, you have to read those directions. Reading is fundamental.”
Like the students and Chief Academic Officer Stephanie McCloud, DeSoto ISD Superintendent Dr. Usamah Rodgers was excited and inspired by Dr. Lee’s visit.
“Dr. Lee speaks about the difference that one person can make, and the opportunity to have her come and kick off this challenge was inspiring,” said Rodgers. “Reading is foundational to success. Readers are leaders, and reading is life! So, being able to read and read well is foundational for success. We have a goal in literacy and are glad to have our second-grade readers kick off this reading challenge on Read Across America Day and that we were able to do it in a big way.”