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Jefferson Co. educators accept international literacy awards

The International Reading Association (IRA) presented literacy awards to area reading council educators at the IRA 57th Annual Convention at the Chicago Hilton Towers in Chicago recently.

Susan Bitely, president of the Jefferson County Reading Council (JCRC) and librarian/media specialist at Southeast Middle School, Pine Bluff, accepted the first-place international award for Local Community Service on behalf of JCRC at the International Reading Association Awards Ceremony, “Celebrating Teaching.” This award is presented to a local reading council for outstanding service to the community and literacy. The prize-winning project, Boost Literacy with Family and Community Reading, was co-chaired by Margie Nanak, library media specialist at Southwood Elementary, Pine Bluff, and Dorothy Pollett, fifth-grade teacher at G. R. Taylor Elementary, White Hall.

The council assembled and distributed Booster Book Bags containing books, school supplies, and family literacy information to preschoolers and parents through the Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD). Baby Book Bags with books and early literacy guidance were also dispersed through ACCESS, a teenage-mother support agency in Pine Bluff and the JCHD. Other literacy activities included a reading booth at White Hall Founder’s Day and distribution of holiday reading bookmarks at the Legend of Lights in Pine Bluff.

The projects were funded through JCRC membership, an ARA council grant, a Wal-Mart Community Literacy Grant, and a Delta Kappa Gamma- Epsilon contribution.

Kathy Carnahan, library media specialist at Moody Elementary-White Hall and JCRC president-elect, accepted the Honor Council award for JCRC. This award recognizes local reading councils that organize and conduct well-rounded programs that serve the council and the community. This is the 18thth year for JCRC to earn this recognition.

The Arkansas Reading Association (ARA) President and JCRC member Paula Findley of White Hall received the Award of Excellence for ARA. This is presented to state reading associations that organize and implement programs that contribute to education, support local councils and programs of the IRA. “The collaborative work of our members makes an impact on getting reading material into the hands of children.” commented Bitely. “Though we are teachers from many schools throughout the county, we share a common goal and passion for instilling the love of reading to children and their families.” The recipients also participated in three days of professional development that included sessions conducted by international reading researchers, award-winning authors, and noted literacy instructors. They also attend sessions on the use of technology in literacy development and implementing Common Core State Standards.

Jefferson County Reading Council is a non-profit organization comprised of 65 county educators and individuals committed to promoting literacy. The IRA is a global network of more than 70,000 members that supports literacy professionals through professional development activities, resources, advocacy efforts, and volunteerism. The members promote literacy through improving quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading, and encouraging lifetime reading habits.