A Special Guest Post

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday today, we have a special guest post from one of our favorite Orion Gives Back partners, Literacy Mid-South.  The wonderful Heather Nordtvedt, Director of Development, shares with us what this day means for her and her passion for her organization’s mission. Thank you to Heather and to Literacy Mid-South for the important work you do and your dedication to bettering the community we serve!

Heather_nordvedtHeather Nordtvedt, Director of Development, Literacy Mid-South

I learned to read at a very young age. It has always been a hobby of mine. So, for a “book nerd” like me, Dr. Seuss’ birthday is a memorable day. Luckily, I work for an organization that also recognizes this holiday, extending it to a month-long celebration of books and reading (Literacy Mid-South’s Read Across America Month). Christmas is another love of mine. I’m quite the opposite of the Grinch, who just so happens to be the villain in my most favorite Dr. Seuss book. Call me crazy, but something about the story puts me in the holiday spirit. Max, Cindy Lou, Whoville, Roast Beast… it makes me feel like a kid again. It’s such a fun book to re-read each December. Although, at this point, I’m sure I could recite it to you. And, watching the movie for the first time, after reading the book – wow! I LOVE seeing his heart grow at the end! That mischievous grin of his, the way he slides around on his belly. It all came to life, and made the book that much more magical.

Working for Literacy Mid-South, I get to see first-hand the difference reading can make in someone’s life. It’s definitely something I’ve always taken for granted. But, seeing the 500+ adults enrolled in our Adult Learning Program each year who desperately want—but are unable—to read books like How the Grinch Stole Christmas to their children and grandchildren is absolutely heartbreaking. What’s even more devastating is just how few children in our community are reading on grade level, and how few of them have access to books outside the classroom. Our adult learners consistently show progress, and find themselves much more self-sufficient and engaged in the community after working with our dedicated volunteer tutors. We’re working with community partners to provide comprehensive eye exams and free follow-up care (including glasses) to each child in the Achievement School District in Frayser. You can’t read if you can’t see! We’re also putting brand-new books in the hands of thousands of children each year, all over the Mid-South. Books they can keep and call their own, books they can take home to share with their family, to build reading comprehension and fluency skills together, to become lifelong learners together.

I’m so proud to work for an organization that is constantly recognized for not only being innovative, but for truly being impactful. Literacy is a powerful tool, and it opens so many doors. Sadly, an estimated one in seven adults in Shelby County are functionally illiterate, and less than 40% of our students are reading proficiently by third grade. We’ve been working to change these statistics since 1974, but our work is far from over. We cannot do it alone. Please visit our website (www.literacymidsouth.org) to learn more about our programs, and how you can get involved and truly change someone’s life. Join us on social media (we’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to see stories of those empowered by our services. And, as you’re reading this, take a minute to stop and reflect on the role reading plays in your life, and just how lonely and isolated your life would be without this gift.