Family reading goal a total Knox County effort

Starting Monday, May 2, Knox County kicks off its One Book Read City initiative, which will offer 33,000 students, their families and the community the chance to collectively enjoy a book together.

Knox County Schools, Knox Board of Education and Knox Education Foundation have worked in partnership with Knox County Mayor’s Office, which has spearheaded the ongoing literacy initiative Read City USA.

According to information from a Board of Education source, “All kindergarten through fifth-graders in all 53 elementary schools will receive the same book on the same day, along with a bookmark. We have also planned an entire month of activities to promote the book and engage students, their families and the community in not only reading it, but participating in a community-wide scavenger hunt and other activities that focus on common themes and activities promoted in the book.

“Our goal of the One Book program is to encourage dialogue, foster the engagement of reading at home while building a strong community identity,” the source added. “Our shared goal among the schools, the community and local leaders is to promote reading in the home, engage families in fun ways, support the students in their reading efforts and raise awareness in the community to increase literacy levels.”

Even students who may not be able to fully read the book can enjoy being “read to” online via their Chromebooks thanks to a series of guest readers for each chapter. While the actual book title is embargoed until May 2, the Mayor’s Office will release a “teaser” video promoting the campaign this week.

Getting teachers, administrators and community partners on board has been a huge piece of the puzzle — with involved partners including Knox County Public Library, Friends of the Library, Friends of Literacy, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, Knox County Council PTA, North Knox Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram, The Boyd Foundation, Powell Business and Professional Association, AA-Air Company, Fountain City Business and Professional Association, Home Federal Bank, REO Networking Group, Sharon Jennings, Priority Financial Solutions, Charles Pratt and Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial.

“We worked with Knox County Schools staff. ... We created this program to be something celebrated in each school while not adding any extra burden on the teachers,” the BOE source said. “This fun-filled community wide event will (instead) be something fun to do in support of classroom reading while engaging families and uniting our community.”

Another key piece has been the planning of a related “Scavenger Hunt,” which will run from Monday, May 2, through Sunday, May 15, and will involve Barnes and Noble, Rural Metro Fire Department locations, Weigel’s, Food City, Knox County Library, Bradley’s Chocolates and Gifts, Beaver Dough Joe, Panthers Dough Joe, Admirals Dough Joe, Burn’s Printing, Commercial Bank, Home Depot and Matlock Tire Service & Auto Repair during the businesses’ normal operating business hours.

“Your child should bring their book to one of the locations around Knox County to get their book stamped,” the source stated. “Once your child receives four stamps in their book, each student can turn his or her name into their teacher to be entered into a raffle for a pizza party with (the mayor).”

“Students can also take their stamped book to the Knox County Library Booth at the Children’s Festival of Reading on May 21 for a gold chocolate coin,” it was further stated.

A similar project and its organizers in Blount County reportedly helped get One Book Read City off the ground.