Literacy Mid-South: Be Merry!

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Kevin Dean was sounding a little out of breath on Wednesday afternoon, and he had good reason to be. Dean, executive director of Literacy Mid-South, was in the middle of unboxing books — more than 90 boxes containing somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 books for the "Art of Reading" party and book sale taking place this weekend at the Germantown Community Theatre to benefit Literacy Mid-South.

Those books — including children's books — by name-brand authors were ordered by and donated by The Commercial Appeal, which is co-sponsoring Friday night's event along with the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell, and Berkowitz. The books are certainly priced to sell: Hardbacks are $5; paperbacks, $3; and oversized books, $10. Those sales directly benefit the programs run by Literacy Mid-South.

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Books won't be all that's on offer, however. Partygoers will get not only first dibs on the books for sale, they can buy the art on display by more than a dozen local artists — among them, Norman Soskel and Gay Johnston — inspired by a book of the artist's choosing. Prices per artwork (with 75 percent of sales going to Literacy Mid-South) run from $50 to $500, and Dean said the literary inspiration for them runs the gamut: from Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean to Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho to Archibald MacLeish's J.B. (Art not sold on Friday night will be available for sale at thebookwormstore.com.)

Dean is expecting partygoers to be merry on Friday. There will be an open bar (the event is for those 21 and up), and hors d'oeuvres will be served, music will be made, and T-shirts will be sold in Literacy Mid-South's on-site pop-up shop, known as Bookworm. But on Friday night, it will be rechristened the Bookworm Outlet store, with 50 percent off the organization's line of literacy-minded T-shirts.

And with "Art of Reading" comes an announcement: Literacy Mid-South's 2014 "books of choice." Dean wanted to keep the titles under wraps for now, but he did say that the book for adult readers is based on the life a Memphian and the children's book is by a Memphis author, who will be in attendance on Friday night. For advance tickets and more information on "Art of Reading," go to literacymidsouth.org.

Can't make it to the party Friday? On Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the artwork comes down but the book sale (also sponsored by The Commercial Appeal) continues and it's free and open to the public, with hot chocolate for the kids.

As Dean did at last year's annual book sale, "I'm doing all my Christmas shopping here," he said.

And it's certainly been a year for him and for Literacy Mid-South. The organization moved its offices just this past week into the Playhouse on the Square building on Union in Midtown. And yes, according to Dean, "It's been a crazy month, but we couldn't have asked for a better location. We moved in in a day. We started back to business as usual the next day."

Last month, though, business wasn't as usual. Dean was honored nationally with the Ruth J. Colvin and Frank C. Laubach Award for Excellence in Community-Based Adult Literacy, presented at the U.S. Conference on Adult Literacy in Washington, D.C.

Whitney Harmon, Literacy Mid-South's board chair, nominated Dean. And during presentation of the award, Kevin Morgan, of ProLiteracy, recognized him "for his innovative strategies that have made Literacy Mid-South a vibrant and sustainable organization deeply engaged in its community."

And it is. Dean's award: well-deserved. •
"Art of Reading" art and book sale to benefit Literacy Mid-South, Germantown Community Theatre (3037 Forest Hill-Irene), Friday, December 13th, 6-10 p.m., tickets $25 in advance, $35 at the door; book sale continues on Saturday, December 14th, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., free.

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