MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Representatives with the Tennessee Department of Education connected with Memphis Shelby County Schools leaders Wednesday to celebrate the launch of the MSCS literacy commitment.     

The state joined forces with MSCS Wednesday to encourage and empower students at Oak Forest Elementary along with the tens of thousands that make up MSCS, Tennessee’s largest public school district, to stay the course. 

Dr. Lisa Coons with the state Department of Education knows literacy matters.

“It’s important for the entire community to come together and work on literacy and support our kiddos with that important skill,” she said. “Students who are reading at grade level at the end of third grade are four more times likely to meet their career goals.”

Just a week ago, the nation’s report card showed testing scores for MSCS students dropped this year compared to 2019 with math and reading really taking a hard hit. 

With there being so much riding on the line, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Angela Whitelaw says it will take a village and it doesn’t stop when the school bell rings at the end of the day.

“I am encouraging parents to read to their child every night – 20 minutes a night,” Whitelaw said. “The only way you can move forward in this work, is to make sure you are reading every day.”

You can’t leave something this important to luck, which is why the state has brought in Riley the Reading Raccoon for some reinforcement. The initiative is called Reading 360 and it plays into something that is echoed over and over again: reading is crucial.

As part of the literacy initiative, there is a big tutoring push. In fact, the number of students participating in tutoring expanded from 10,000 last year to 15,000 who have signed up so far this year.