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Mayor chooses Team Read as one of 2017 calls to action

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- After a year strife with record-high violence in Memphis, Mayor Jim Strickland is looking to education to try to curb the issue.

He said WREG's Team Read initiative caught his eye in the summer of 2016 and decided to make it one of his three community action priorities for the new year.

The program enrolled more than 1,000 reading volunteers in Shelby County in 2015.

Team Read paired mentors with students.

Mentors read to two children for a total of one hour every week.

Students were usually in the second grade.

“You’re more likely to graduate from high school and attend college if you’re a proficient reader and a lot of those benchmarks occur around the 3rd grade,” said Dr. Cynthia Alexander Mitchell with Shelby County Schools.

“It’s a program already in existence, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There’s something for people to plug into,” said Ursula Madden, chief communications officer for the city of Memphis.

At last check, Shelby County Schools officials said nearly two-thirds of students were not reading proficiently by third grade.

“We’re extremely humbled because there are a lot of areas the mayor could’ve focused on but what that says is that he is really concerned about youth, children and this community,” Mitchell said.

She said they hoped to sign up another 1,000 reading volunteers in 2017.

If you'd like to volunteer, visit this link.