Giving Back, Moving Forward…Together

 //  Dec 21, 2020

Giving Back, Moving Forward…Together

James Pond is the president of Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee. In this post, he discusses the importance of literacy as a key component for ensuring strong health and academic outcomes for all children.

This holiday season, we cannot underestimate the importance of community as we all continue to navigate a new normal. The pandemic has created unprecedented levels of uncertainty in everything from job and food security, to childcare. Education should not be uncertain.

2020 has shed light on the power of pivoting and adapting. Books are a simple, yet powerful resource that creates an impactful pivot on learning and a positive shift for a child’s future.

By giving the gift of reading, we can move forward together.

At Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF), our mission is to strengthen early literacy in Tennessee. Our mission is particularly relevant today as caregivers and teachers work to prevent “COVID slide” and counteract the predictions of learning loss in students as a result of school closures.

Recent data from the Tennessee Department of Education predicts literacy scores to drop by 50% as a result of remote learning, and national research from the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Collaborative for Student Growth and the Brooking Institute projects similar learning loss across the U.S. We can prevent this.  

While classrooms may look different, we must focus on what we can do to support student learning during this time. By building a new “Community Classroom,” GELF brings together partners of all sizes, public and private, to provide resources for students, families and educators in the classroom and in the home.

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, GELF has distributed over 2.5M books to children statewide in Tennessee.
  • With a tremendously successful summer reading program, GELF and Scholastic collaborated to distribute an additional 600K books to over 75K families and 3K teachers in over 79 school districts across Tennessee this fall.

Most recently, we are proud to have partnered with Amazon and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee to give the gift of reading by delivering meaningful, relevant books to families and children during the holidays. Through this partnership, we were able to provide more than 17,000 books from Scholastic for Second Harvest Food Banks to distribute with holiday meals, feeding children’s bodies and minds.

We believe literacy is a basic human right; every child should have access to food, shelter and an education. Literacy is a key component for ensuring strong health outcomes and educational success for children and society. Findings from the Scholastic Teacher & Principal School Report: 2nd Edition reveal that nearly all educators (98%) agree that literacy is critical to students’ health and emotional wellness.

Literacy can help us build lifelong learners and build a healthier society beyond the pandemic. 

Give the gift of reading. Give books. Give 15 minutes of your time to read with a child. It’s the most effective approach we have for healthy, lifelong learners.


Photos courtesy of Governor's Early Literacy Foundation and James Pond; Project Transformation Tennessee