Dublin: A City of Readers

By Jamie Ray
District Literacy Coach, L4GA Grant Coordinator, District Academic Intervention/MTSS Coordinator

Here in Dublin, Ga., we are working toward creating a city of readers. Dublin City Schools—in partnership with Mayor Phil Best, the City of Dublin, and the Downtown Development Authority—recently hosted the kick off for our annual community literacy campaign as we introduced this year’s book selection, Brave, by Stacy McAnulty.

People across the country have been coming together to build community through the use of a common story, and we joined this national movement in 2018 with “Dublin: A City of Readers.” Campaigns like this have been done in other states with much success, and our Superintendent Dr. Fred Williams had the vision to bring our community together to increase literacy and foster a love of reading.

Knowing this endeavor will impact the future of our community’s workforce, we’re tenacious in this effort that involves several partners who came together at the request of Dublin City Schools to promote the campaign and ensure the book is placed all over the community. These partners include the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Dublin, Downtown Development Authority, Oconee Community Mentoring Association Bike Team, Laurens County-Dublin Retired Teachers Association, day care agencies, faith-based communities, and several businesses and public agencies across Dublin.

We purchased 155 copies of Brave this year thanks to funding from the Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) Grant. Anyone who wants to participate is encouraged to simply take a book we’ve placed around the city, read it with a child, sign the inside cover, and then leave the copy at another business within the city for others to do the same.

Our goal is to have families all over the community reading and discussing the theme, words, and artwork in Brave. The book was selected because of its empowering message that children can be real-life superheroes—and that all kids have what it takes to be brave. The book encourages kids to be bold in many ways such as trying new things, speaking their mind, and confronting bullies.

Sometimes adults forget that the children in our city are our future, and it takes bravery and grit to navigate life in today’s world. We also know that without the ability to access the written word, our children may not become contributing community members as adults.

In Dublin, 34.2 percent of the population lives in poverty—more than double Georgia’s average of 16.9 percent. The amount of third graders achieving Proficient Learner or above on the English Language Arts Milestones assessment is 17.7 percent, which is significantly lower than the state’s average of 37.4 percent. The amount of teens ages 16-19+ not working and not in school is 27.1 percent, which is significantly higher than Georgia’s average of 8.6 percent.

We know that students who don’t read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers. It’s so important for families to read together at home, and we hope this initiative sparks that bond. Our inaugural book, How to Catch a Leprechaun, was selected because it encouraged families to engage in problem solving together with a fun read for both kids and adults.

The campaign was a new concept for everyone last year, so many books were taken and shared with children but not returned to businesses so the book could be passed on. We understand that many children in our community don’t have access to home libraries, so we weren’t disappointed that those books were kept. Instead, we recognized the need to buy more books from now on. And we hope that Mayor Best introducing this year’s book and promoting how to participate will encourage community members to keep copies circulating.

The books are placed in businesses where adults and children frequent such as restaurants, banks, and grocery stores. This way, the book will be accessible to those we’re working to reach: the city’s future citizens. Feedback from last year’s campaign was encouraging, and it is our hope that this year’s response will be even more positive as we build support in the community around literacy.