BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry has launched a program aimed at helping local children learn to read.
Dubbed the “Mayor’s Reading Initiative, the kickoff event was held on Aug. 8 at the Yvonne Scarlett Golden Cultural & Educational Center, 1000 Vine St.
The program will run every Thursday at the Scarlett-Golden center from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. It’s for youth ages 5 to 7 years old.
“I think one of the best things that we can do is assist our youth with being able to read and being literate. There is a difference between the two. I feel we must do this to support their future in the best way possible,” Henry said.
‘A better need’
The program comes on the heel of three elementary schools in the city – Champion, Palm Terrace and Westside – receiving D grades from the state Department of Education.
“We want to help our schools excel. I believe literacy is the best thing that we can do as a community to support our children’s future,” Heny noted.
Resources that went toward the annual Mayor’s Backpack Giveaway will now go toward this initiative.
“There are now backpack giveaways going on everywhere. We started only giving out about half the backpacks. This program could help and serve a better need.”
The reading program needs volunteers to read to the children and help them learn. All volunteers are mandated by state law to pass a background check.
“We want to focus on education professionals like retired teachers but we won’t exclude those willing to help,” said Anthony Murphy, recreation coordinator for Daytona Beach’s Cultural & Leisure Services.
Murphy is on the mayor’s team to make the program a reality. Staffers with Cultural & Leisure Services will help run the program.
The city also is looking to partner with other agencies, businesses and organizations to help the program. Local authors also are expected to participate.
“Right now, we are speaking with several businesses in the area as well as some of the other agencies to assist with resources. We are working on the details,” said John Cameron, Daytona Beach, Cultural Services coordinator.
Urging community support
The hope is that the program is the start of something special.
“We want this to expand and grow. We are asking for the community support. When it comes to literacy, we must start with the youngsters,” Murphy said.
Other educational programs could be city run as well such as math and STEM programs.
“It’s all in the mayor’s vision. We will also help any children struggling academically. There will also be fun activities based on achievement,” Murphy added.
For more information, to sign up, or to learn about sponsorship opportunities, call 386671-8203.