The Book Nook
“From reviewing the state testing data for the local elementary school my child attended, I was struck by the disparities in reading scores for white and African-American children. I felt an urgency in me to do something,” said Alniece Liggins, a PLI graduate and Tupelo resident.
A cornerstone of the PLI program is data. Parents in the program learn to analyze state testing data for the schools in their communities, spot trends and develop projects that address a need that this data reveals. Alniece, reviewing segmented data, saw clearly that many African-American children at Lawnhorn Elementary did not have the necessary resources to read at the appropriate grade level. She knew from her PLI training that children “learn to read and then read to learn.” If children fall too far behind in reading, the effects are adverse and long-lasting. Alniece found a way to make a change.
Working with her local housing authority and the Tupelo Police Department, Alniece commandeered an unused building that just happened to be stocked with books from a book drive some years before! The building is located in a busy neighborhood where many Lawnhorn students play after school. Alniece soon opened “The Book Nook.”
At the Book Nook, students have access to more than one-thousand books in a safe location. Alniece worked with other volunteers to install shelving and to paint the one-room building to make it appealing. She opens the nook at least one afternoon each school week and is working with other committed parents and community members to open it more often. In addition to providing a place for children to read, Alniece actively teaches the children.
“I noticed that children weren’t learning to write in cursive any more. I went to the bank and other offices to get forms that show where a signature is required so that the kids could have some fun practicing their names so they felt like ‘grown-ups.’ I’ve begun to teach them cursive as well as helping them to do creative writing. Both are so important to a child’s developing brain and to building their aptitude.”
Thanks to the training of PLI, Alniece – and parents like her – understand critical data that highlights the strengths and weaknesses of her community schools. Thanks to Alniece, the students at Lawnhorn Elementary are improving that data and their lives.