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ReadBAMARead donates $25K to city schools

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ReadBAMARead donates $25K to city schools

CW/ Kallie Chabla

CW/ Kallie Chabla

CW/ Kallie Chabla

CW/ Kallie Chabla

Audrey Harper, Contributing Writer

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To Dana Duckworth, UA head gymnastics coach, Tuscaloosa is noteworthy because of its devoted community support.

Duckworth and Donna Benjamin are co-founders of ReadBAMARead, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy in West Alabama, created after an EF-4 ripped through Tuscaloosa on  April 27, 2011, killing 64 and injuring over 1,500.

“One thing that’s so special about Tuscaloosa, Alabama is that we have a very loyal community, and they get behind the cause,” Duckworth said.

Duckworth and Benjamin asked themselves what they can do long term that can have a greater benefit on Tuscaloosa. They learned three Tuscaloosa City School libraries were destroyed in the tornado, which is what first inspired them to begin fundraising to replenish the libraries’ books.

ReadBAMARead donated $25,000 worth of books to the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education’s “Strong Libraries; Strong Schools.” campaign for Tuscaloosa City Schools’ five middle schools. Each middle school library received $5,000 worth of books.

“I think why we have been so successful is because our mission has stayed true,” Duckworth said. “We take the funds and we buy library books. We really stay true to using the funds responsibly. Our hope is that people acknowledge that we are an upstanding organization that continues to stay true to their word, which is to promote literacy in Alabama.”

ReadBAMARead hosted a “book spree” on Nov. 1 at Barnes and Noble, in which media specialists from each middle school used the funds ReadBAMARead provided to select books for their libraries.

According to The Literacy Council of West Alabama, 25 percent of Alabamians are functionally illiterate.

“In order for students to be successful, they need to have strong reading skills,” said Lesley Bruinton, Tuscaloosa City Schools public relations coordinator. “Up until third grade, you’re learning to read, but after third grade, you’re reading to learn. If your skills are not strong, you’re going to struggle. How successful can they be in the workforce if their reading skills aren’t strong?”

Claire Calkins, a senior in the Multiple Abilities Program within the College of Education, said learning to read is vital to students.

“I think that that [donation] will definitely help to get students the books they need to be able to learn in the classroom,” Calkins said. “Early literacy is a very important piece of a child’s education and helping them in the long run.”

According to Tuscaloosa City Schools website, its average library book is 19 years old due to lack of funding, which “Strong Libraries; Strong Schools.” aims to amend with a campaign to raise $1.9 million for 19 school libraries.

“When you think of a student who is interested in basketball for instance, and the most recent book on the shelf is about Kobe Bryant, who is retired from the game, there is no Steph Curry to learn and read about,” Bruinton said.

Tuscaloosa City Schools is currently partnering with Tuscaloosa’s Barnes and Noble in a holiday book drive, which allows shoppers to buy the most-requested books by students to donate to their school library.

“We have so much work to do that our mission can stay true for a very long time, and we can impact as many schools and as many students as possible,” Duckworth said.

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ReadBAMARead donates $25K to city schools