New Orleans has a big goal for its 300th birthday in 2018: Leaders want to make New Orleans the most literate city in America through a program called Turn the Page. The initiative kicked off January 22 with an effort to break the Guinness world record for the largest read-aloud event. About 500 kids attended to hear some of the city’s finest musicians play, including Grammy-winning bandleader Irvin Mayfield, one of the major forces behind the literacy campaign, and New Orleans actor Wendell Pierce, known for his work on “The Wire” and “Treme,” who read aloud from “The Bourbon Street Band is Back.”
The Turn The Page program unites 11 library systems and many media organizations throughout southern Louisiana in a simultaneous effort to improve school readiness among preschoolers, reading ability among school-age kids, digital literacy, and literacy among adults. Last month’s kickoff began a blitz of 30 literacy-encouraging events in 30 days, such as the “Super Bowl of Reading,” through which people vote for their favorite author to be featured at area libraries, individual computer classes to help people get online, and a pajama story time for kids. The Turn the Page website will make literacy tools available.
Central Connecticut State University conducts an annual literacy survey of in cities across America, measuring such factors as educational attainment, the number of booksellers, and the availability of library resources, and ranks cities. Last year New Orleans ranked 25th out of 75. Given all the efforts the people of New Orleans are making to improve literacy, 2013’s number one city, Washington D.C., is going to have to hit the books to hold off New Orleans’ challenge.