Summer Kicks Off with Two Ways To Promote Literacy in Memphis



Barbecue: What could be more Memphis? Promoting literacy in Memphis: What could be better for the city? Combine the two and you get the first annual “Books & BBQ,” which will be at the Agricenter on Saturday, June 6th, from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s only $3 for adults, but children 12 and under get in free. Parking too is free. And the food: It’s from Baby Jack’s BBQ and Central BBQ.

But that’s not all. There will be authors selling their books, and professionals will be leading free business workshops (but preregistration required) for adults looking for lessons in branding and marketing. There will be live music and spoken-word performances. And in the Youth Corner, more than 300 new children’s books will be given away, with Curious George, Rocky the Redbird, and Sheldon of the Memphis RiverKings for kids to meet.

Among the sponsors for “Books & BBQ” are Youth United Way, Hyundai, Boost Mobile, Kroger, Vantage Point Golf Center, Chick-fil-A, and Lasting Expressions Portraits. But the driving force behind the event is one woman, Angela Cole, a writer herself but a frustrated one when she set out to publish her own inspirational book and saw the hurdles to publication firsthand.

“I’m an author and ran into a lot of challenges getting my book published,” Cole said. “There are people who take advantage of authors. People who aren’t reputable. I needed a central network: writers, publishers, and graphic artists in one place.”

That’s what helped to inspire the “Books & BBQ” event. But Cole’s other important order of business was promoting literacy — and doing it in a fun way. After two early sponsors, including Youth United Way, came on board, other sponsors followed.

“If we can get people to the Agricenter on Saturday, we can also get them behind our cause: literacy,” Cole said. “We can do something positive here. We can dream bigger. But we can also have fun doing it!”

For detailed information on all the activities at "Books & BBQ," go to its website.

Summer is for fun and for reading thanks also to Porter-Leath, which will be distributing, for free, two children’s books with Memphis themes: Perre Magness’ We Live in Memphis!, which will go to the 4,500 students in Porter-Leath’s preschool programs, and Grace Hammond Skertich’s Goodnight Memphis, which will be donated to a hundred or so preschool classrooms.

Both titles are designed for children up to 5 years old, and the idea behind the book distribution is to encourage school-readiness skills and to promote language-rich households, especially during the summer months, when learning retention is critical.

“When kids are read to, listen to words, and talk about the stories, it helps prepare them for a lifetime of learning,” according to Karen Harrell, vice president of Early Childhood Services at Porter-Leath, which has seen measurable results among its Head Start and Early Head Start students thanks to its early literacy initiatives.

For more on Porter-Leath’s programs for at-risk children in Memphis, visit the website. As the organization, which has operated for more than 160 years, puts it in their motto: “Better Children. Better Families.” Better Memphis too. •

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