Liz’s fondest childhood memories are cuddling up with her parents, or the occasional family friend in town for a visit, and listening intently as they read her bedtime stories. Her imagination would come alive as enchanting tales and adventures unfolded, page by page. That was the first time she began to understand the immense power of reading.
As so began Liz’s journey toward dedicating her career to fighting for literacy for all children. As the Program Manager for Nashville Public Library’s Bringing Books to Life, Liz sees firsthand the importance of early literacy in building strong, bright futures for students.
“Far too few of our children read on grade level. They struggle with decoding the language on a page. They struggle with understanding the words that they’re reading. Up until about third grade, you are learning to read in school and then after that, you’re expected to read in order to learn. And so, if you aren’t able to read at the level of your peers, then you’re not going to get the content that you need from your classwork. And that’s it. It’s not to say it’s not reversible, but it tends to snowball from there.”
This is the heart of Bringing Books to Life–increasing literacy and fostering a love of reading for all children from a very early age. The program is part of The Blueprint for Early Childhood Success, a citywide initiative aimed at doubling the number of children reading on grade level by third grade. At the end of the 2020-21 school year, only 22 percent of Metro Nashville Public School students were reading on grade level by third grade—a startling, nationwide problem, exacerbated by the pandemic.
And for Liz, this is not just a school problem or an individual problem … this is a community problem.
“Third grade reading matters. It’s not just an arbitrary benchmark that we’ve chosen. There is a sobering statistic that shows that children who don’t meet that benchmark are more likely to drop out of high school, which can lead to a whole host of problems. You’re more likely to be incarcerated. And it can have a generational effect.”
Combating the literacy problem in Nashville, Liz says, is a problem we can all play a role in solving.
“It’s given my life a purpose I didn’t know it needed. That’s why I get up every morning and do what I do. That’s why all my colleagues who are librarians helping children find the right book and helping adults use the computer—that’s why we all do what we do.”