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VOL. 129 | NO. 48 | Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Blitz

Literacy Mid-South in midst of whirlwind period of activity

By Andy Meek

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Literacy Mid-South is spending part of this month literally surrounded by books.

Kevin Dean, executive director of Literacy Mid-South, is helping the organization promote the National Read Across America initiative in March.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The nonprofit, which is promoting the national Read Across America initiative in March, is in the process of collecting some 3,000 books (valued at $48,000) to give away. And in the meantime, those books will need to be somehow stored in the organization’s 1,300-square-foot office.

“It’s going to be really interesting,” laughs executive director Kevin Dean at the thought, though he’s actually more focused on the purpose behind that influx of books.

The book giveaways are one piece of what’s shaped up to be a whirlwind of activity in March for Literacy Mid-South, which also is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In addition to the book giveaways, for example, the group is hosting special events such as a month-long “virtual” book club on social media, and it’s also planning a “reading flash mob” at Overton Park.

That “flash mob” will involve participants simply heading to the park with things such as a picnic blanket, friends, lunch and a book. It will be held March 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the greensward area at Overton Park, and the event will include Literacy Mid-South giving away things like books and T-shirts.

The organization already has started its book deliveries, with a recent batch of Disney titles dropped off at Dexter Elementary. Heather Nordtvedt, community relations manager for Literacy Mid-South, made that delivery and said the children responded with barely contained excitement.

“It was neat to see that, how they wanted to sit down and read the books right then,” she said. “Their teacher had to pull them away.”

The organization is hoping to spread a similar degree of that thrill of reading around the community. Using its #ReadMemphis hashtag this month on social networks, for example, makes readers eligible to win things like a Kindle Fire, Literacy Mid-South swag bags and baskets from The Booksellers at Laurelwood.

The two books at the core of Literacy Mid-South’s virtual book club this month are “Neversink,” by local author Barry Wolverton, and “Life is So Good,” by Richard Glaubman and George Dawson.

Wrapping up Read Across America Month, according to Nordtvedt, will be a Literacy Leader Awards finale event toward the end of the month, with awards recognizing outstanding community organizations, education volunteers and a person of the year.

Then, as soon as the organization will have caught its breath from March’s events, preparations for its first book festival will be in full swing.

Plans already are in the works for the festival, scheduled for Sept. 27 at the Memphis Botanic Garden. More than 20 authors and speakers already have been confirmed, including notable authors such as Daniel Wallace, author of “Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.”

The festival, which will be free to the public, will be stocked with features like panel discussions and speaking events, plus a book sale and the presence of emerging authors selling their books. Dean said the festival already has outgrown the building it had planned to occupy at the facility and will now have things like food trucks outside, plus a chalk walk and kids area outdoors.

“I was thinking this was going to be one of those first-year events, where you grow it, start small, but it’s really blown up,” Dean said. “The excitement about this event is incredible. It’s just making me want to do more and make it bigger and bigger.”

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