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Better Basics Reads Kicks Off at Birmingham’s Tuggle Elementary, Other Area Schools

2024 Miss Black Alabama Talented Teen pageant winner DeAysia Thomas read to third graders at Tuggle Elementary School in Birmingham May 2 as part of the 10th annual Better Basics Reads program. (Donna Cope, Alabama News Center)

By Donna Cope | Alabama News Center

Excitement filled the air at Tuggle Elementary School in Birmingham on May 2 as community leaders gathered for storytelling through the Better Basics Reads program.

Miss Black Alabama Talented Teen pageant winner DeAysia Thomas, a Tuscaloosa native, was among celebrity readers who interacted with students at Tuggle Elementary. While reading to Demetrius Paige’s third grade class, Thomas emphasized, “Heart will take you a long way.”

The Tuscaloosa native repeated that message over again to children while reading Stephen Curry’s popular debut book, “I Have a Superpower.” Curry, a four-time National Basketball Association champion, wrote the book to inspire kids to unlock their own “superpowers.”

From the back of the classroom, a little girl asked Thomas, “Are you Alabama’s queen?” The 16-year-old, who wore a sparkling tiara and a white pageant sash, smiled and lifted Curry’s colorful book so all the children could see. Later, Thomas held a question-and-answer session about the book.

This spring, Better Basics Reads is supplying young readers with Curry’s book, along with “What is Juneteenth” by Kirsti Jewel; “Tikki Tikki Tembo” by Arlene Mosel; “Clean-Up Time” adapted by Patty Michaels from the hit PBS show “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood;” “What Do We Know About Crop Circles?” by Ben Hubbard; “Ready? Set. Birthday” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; and “So You Want to Be an Explorer” by Judith St. George.

Best of all, every child may take home the book from the featured reading in their classroom.

Galvin Billups, executive director, City of Birmingham – Department of Youth Services, was a guest reader on May 2 at Tuggle Elementary School. (Donna Cope, Alabama News Center)

Joining Thomas as celebrity guest readers were Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Birmingham Poet Laureate Salaam Green, Birmingham Police Chief Scott Thurmond and Deputy Chief Shelia Frazier-Finney, U.S. District Attorney Prim Escalona, and Tuggle graduates Judge Houston Brown and Jefferson Drew.

Better Basics Reads expands mission in 2024

The program at Tuggle Elementary and other schools is part of Better Basics Reads’ five-day reading program that helps bring children’s imaginations to life through reading and storytelling.

This year, Better Basics Reads is impacting schools beyond Birmingham as additional districts and independent schools take part in the expanded program. Guest readers will share their love of reading with 13,775 prekindergarten through fifth-grade students at 39 elementary schools.

Readers will visit Fairfield City Schools on May 7; Bessemer City Schools on May 9; i3 Academy on May 14; and Restoration Academy on May 21.

Catherine Goudreau, executive director of Better Basics, said, “We are thrilled to have Better Basics Reads partner with more than 600 volunteers across 29 Birmingham City Schools on May 2, to have a guest reader in every single classroom, so that students can have a love of reading and every child gets to take a copy of the book home so that they can build their home library, and continue to practice that love of reading with their family and friends.

“For 30 years, Better Basics has been a driving force in advancing children’s literacy in our community,” Goudreau continued. “We appreciate the partnership of school leaders and involvement of our volunteers, many of whom return year after year to ensure every classroom enjoys a special guest reader.”

Tuggle Elementary School ambassadors escorted guest readers to the classrooms. (Donna Cope, Alabama News Center)

Goudreau noted that, while students benefit from exposure to various readers, volunteers enjoy directly impacting local students and taking part in the communitywide literacy movement. Volunteers from more than 20 organizations, including Alabama Power, AmFirstBirmingham Public LibraryBlue Cross Blue Shield of AlabamaKPMGO’Neal Industries and The Junior League of Birmingham, came out to read.

The Alabama Power Foundation is proud to support Better Basics and has awarded numerous grants that have helped further the organization’s mission to boost children’s education in the Yellowhammer state. Click to learn more about grants provided through the foundation.

Goudreau said Tuggle Elementary School was selected as the featured school partner for Better Basics Reads 2024 for its commitment to improving literacy and its rich historical significance in the Birmingham community. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Carrie A. Tuggle, a social worker and voting rights advocate who opened the Tuggle Institute and School in 1903.

Click to learn more about Better Basics and its mission to improve education and the future of Alabama’s children.