With Halloween approaching, members of the Oxford-Lafayette community can expect to be greeted by children trick-or-treating in their neighborhoods. However, this year, the Lafayette County Literacy Council is taking this time-old tradition and putting a unique twist on it by encouraging community members to give out books in place of treats.
Sarah McLellan, executive director of the Lafayette County Literacy Council, said the organization is so excited to co-host the second annual Halloween Spooktacular Safestop with Oxford More Than A Meal on Halloween night. The family-friendly event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on the Oxford Courthouse lawn on the Square.
“There will be a lot of games set up for the kids that they can play and win prizes,” McLellan said. “(The Lafayette County Literacy Council) will also be giving out free books for the kids, too. It’s a really fun time for them.”
To prepare for such a large event, the literacy council depends largely on donations from the Lafayette-Oxford community. On-campus organizations, like the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and the Sigma Nu fraternity, have held donation drives that help with collecting children’s books.
“We’ve worked hard collecting as many books as possible,” McLellan said. “We have probably around 400 books donated at this time, and more coming in, but we still have a long way to go. All of our books range from birth to age 13, so we have a wide variety for the kids that come to see us.”
With more than 1,000 attendees at last year’s Halloween booth, the council is working even harder to collect books to make sure all kids gets to fill their trick or treat bags.
“One of our biggest goals by doing this is to get children reading and to get more books in their homes,” McLellan said. “It’s so important to get them interested at a young age.”
Sarah Siebert, a literacy council board member, said she hopes more people will become aware of the council’s work and that more children and adults will see the importance of reading.
“Literacy is so important,” Siebert said. “I think by us giving a book and being a presence on the Square on Halloween night, more people who might not know about our organization are going to be exposed to what we do, and that’s our goal.”
The Lafayette County Literacy Council has four core programs that are designed to help members of all ages in the Oxford-Lafayette community. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, the Adult Basic Literacy Education, the Children’s Book Festival and the LOU Reads Coalition are all programs that are intended to help children and adults with basic reading skills and pursuing their love for learning.
“Just getting books in the hands of children, any children, is just important,” Siebert said. “Reading is such a shared experience. Reading together as a family or with a teacher everyday is really special.”
Another program within the Oxford-Lafayette area that aims to improve literacy rates is the Leap Frog Program, which provides tutoring and enrichment activities to first, second and third graders.
“These programs are very important for literacy rates in Oxford because it allows them to have one-on-one attention from their tutor, which makes them feel special and important,” Jordan Jackson, a frequent volunteer at Leap Frog, said. “They want to learn, and the one-on-one interaction allows them to learn at a faster rate.”
Oxford School District is ranked the top school district in the state of Mississippi. However, according to the Lafayette County Literacy Council, 20-25 percent of Lafayette County adults can’t read well enough to fill out a job application. The ABLE program gives adults in the community one-on-one coaching to help develop their reading skills and help prepare them for the GRE.
“We help adults who decide later in life to get their GED or improve their reading,” Siebert said. “We graduated our third person just recently, which is wonderful. It’s just one of our many helpful programs.”
For anyone interested in donating new or like-new books to the literacy council, there is a drop-off location at Willie Price Lab School located on the Ole Miss campus, and there is more information available at https://lafayetteliteracy.org/advocate/.