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Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan to launch ‘River City Readers’ literacy challenge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There is another major push to get more kids reading in Jacksonville. Mayor Donna Deegan is launching a new citywide literacy challenge called River City Readers. The mayor says it’s part of the next chapter of the Jacksonville Journey, the anti-crime initiative she revived as a part of a campaign promise.

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The mayor told Action News Jax that improving youth literacy benefits our entire city.

Research shows building literacy skills in childhood can have positive lifelong impacts.

Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan hopes her new River City Readers literacy challenge will help achieve that aim.

In a sit down with Action News Jax Anchor Tenikka Hughes, Mayor Deegan said, “If you can get kids interested in a love for reading, a love for books, they’re going to be less likely to get into other things you don’t want them to get into. It creates a much better pathway for their futures.”

River City Readers encourages local kids to read 20 minutes a day and then log their reading minutes into a free app called Beanstack. Experts say reading 20 minutes a day can improve academic, economic, and health outcomes. The mayor’s new challenge is the latest push in an ongoing community effort to help local kids improve their reading skills. In recent years, data from state tests revealed more than half of third-grade students in Duval County were not reading at grade level. Mayor Deegan said that has to change and we all have to do our part. Deegan said, “I’m really hoping that we can get everybody excited about this. Because I know you share this passion with me because you know that at the end of the day if we can get kids reading at grade level, that sets them up for success.”

The top River City Readers will earn prizes at the end of the year, but the mayor says our entire city will ultimately reap the benefits. Mayor Deegan said, “So not only is it a tool, for fighting crime, but it’s also a quality of life issue. They’re going to do better. Our city’s going to do better. It’s an economic development issue. So this became sort of the cornerstone of what we were looking at in terms of initiating that next chapter of the Jacksonville Journey.”

The River City Readers kick-off event is happening on Saturday, January 27 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at the Main Library in downtown Jacksonville. The mayor says kids will get free books, clear backpacks, and boxed lunches. There will also be games, giveaways, vendors, local children’s book author Vincent Taylor, and free parking in the Library Garage off West Duval Street.

You must register to attend. You can find a link to register HERE.

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