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  • Children Literacy in Mississippi

    Campaign by: Mara Bensing

    Sponsored by:




  • Organization:

    Thacker Mountain Radio began in 1997 as the Words and Music show. It is Oxfords very own radio show that features weekly authors and musical artists as well as songs by the house band. At Thacker, it is desired to truly showcase the importance of both literature and music, especially right here in Oxford. The radio hour is free of charge, and broadcasts every Thursday at 6 p.m. at Off Square Books on the Square, and rebroadcast on Saturday evenings on Mississippi Public Radio. The show puts on some 27 shows a year, 12 in the spring and 12 in the fall, along with 3-4 across the state. Benefit:

    In order to benefit Thacker Mountain Radio, the following campaign will enhance Thackers reputation by touching on such an important issue. By doing so, the campaign will increase awareness of Thacker Mountain Radio as well as enhance its already respected name. My campaign will reveal the reality on a pressing issue that is relevant and relatable in Oxford, while allowing Thacker to guide its efforts through its sponsorship. Problem:

    This campaign will address the literacy rates among children in Mississippi, specifically in Oxford. Literacy rates of the state are continuously among the lowest in the nation. Reading levels are below average, and children are continuing to struggle to pass their proficiency tests. This very real issue is prominent, pertinent, and is in dire need of change. Current Situation:

    In order to increase the facts and figures of literacy strength, it is vital to increase the awareness of the importance of reading. My campaign focuses on encouraging just that. In 2012, Mississippi was ranked the second worst educated state in the nation behind West Virginia, along with the lowest literacy rate (Fox Business). Today, it is only ranked 46th in the country in education (Adams, T.). By campaigning for the importance of getting children excited about reading, I hope to increase Mississippis awareness of its literacy problem by 50% by November of 2015. This goal is indeed high; however, with the help of tutoring programs already in tact as well as the overall concern of Oxford parents, my campaign can help such an improvement be achieved.

    1. Situation & Research

  • Secondary Research: The state of Mississippi has steadily been dismally ranked for its lack of

    education and poor literacy rates. Having some of the nations lowest test scores and highest poverty rates, Mississippi is in need of improvement. Only about 52 percent of third-graders and 50 percent of eighth-graders tested at or above their grade-level in March of 2013. Most significantly and unfortunately, a shocking 78 percent of the states fourth-graders are below proficiency levels in reading. This number is 10 points above the national average figure (The Hechinger Report).

    According to, the majority of experts in the educational field believe that in order for children to grow up to be strong readers, they must develop those strong skills when they are young. In Oxford, Mississippi, grade schools focus the most on reading in the classrooms between kindergarten and fifth grade. Because of the No Child Left Behind Act, children are given standardized tests at the end of each school year, which helps educators gauge the progress of their students ( Various programs throughout the state are aiding in getting kids to read, as well as helping those who are falling behind in school. Oxford consists of a handful of such programs, including The Boys and Girls Club, Leap Frog, and Reading Rockets. Efforts are being taken to encourage the increase in the states literacy rate, and although the childrens progress is gradual, it is happening (Preschool Literacy Initiative). Executive Director of Oxfords Leap Frog program, Teresa Adams, sees firsthand the struggles as well as improvements among Oxfords children.

    It is the Leap Frog Programs mission to reach these children at an early age in hopes that the students will succeed and continue to do well in school. In the past four years, the Leap Frog program has had a success rate of 85% in advancing students to the next grade level. We are very happy with this passage rate, as last years data concluded that approximately 98% of the students came from low-income homes, and that more than half of the students were from single-parent families, said Adams.

    Leap Frog is an after-school tutoring and mentoring program designed to encourage students and help them improve in the classroom. Programs like Leap Frog are crucial to increasing awareness of the importance of getting children to read. Adams, T. (2014, October 28). Email interview. Mader, J. (2013, March 11). The literacy crisis: Searching for Solutions in Mississippi. Retrieved from: 27 October 2014.

    Preschool Literacy Initiative. (2010). Retrieved from: 27 October 2014.

    Smith, N. (2012, December 31). Fighting Illiteracy in Mississippi. Retrieved from:

    Primary Research: To administer my survey measuring the awareness and opinion of the

    nations literacy rates, I used paper surveys.

  • Because Mississippis children literacy rates are among the worst in the nation, it was important I receive as many responses of Oxford parents as possible. To do so, I attended Square Books Jr.s Story-time event it puts on every weekend on the Square. At 10 a.m. every Saturday morning, the childrens bookstore welcomes Oxfords young children to an hour of stories and sing-alongs. I administered my surveys to the parents and grandparents there with the children.

    After gaining responses from approximately 20 parents and guardians at Story-time, I walked around the Square and was able to receive a handful of responses from parents outside of the Story-time setting. After collecting the survey results from my target audience, it can be concluded that there are similar levels of awareness and opinions among the parents of Mississippi.

    Of those who responded to the survey: More than 50% are not highly satisfied with their childrens schooling within the

    state, majority ranking their satisfaction as a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1 to 5. Almost all of the parents and guardians that were surveyed strongly agree

    that the children literacy rates need to be improved. 100% of people surveyed answered to have their child or children read to at

    least twice a week. Of the 60% who are familiar with Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, nearly 100%

    of respondents responded to be willing to take their children to Thacker shows.

    About 90% of respondents ranked Literature Arts (including reading) as the most important subject.

    Because Mississippi parents are overall unimpressed with their childrens education, my campaign has the potential to help encourage reading among children and better teaching among schools.

    The figures found from administering this survey revealed results similar to what I had expected. With Mississippi struggling with children literacy rates, continuously coming in near the bottom of the nations rankings every year, I predicted that parents raising their children in the state to be dissatisfied with the educational discipline. Not surprisingly, parents in Mississippi also strongly believed the literacy rates in the nation, and more so in Mississippi, need to improve. Furthermore, I more or less expected parents from other regions to be slightly more satisfied with their childrens educational paths. This information can help me with targeting Mississippis issue with literacy that ties into my campaign.

  • Survey: Children Literacy Survey

    This survey is designed to measure awareness/opinion of reading and literacy

    among children, and awareness/opinion of Thacker Mountain Radio. Q1 Do you live in Mississippi? m Yes m No If no, please skip to end of survey Q2 Are you a parent or guardian of young children? (ages 0-12) m Yes m No If no, please skip to Q5 Q3 How often does someone usually read with your young children? m Daily m 2-3 Times a Week m Once a Week m Once a Month m Once Every Few Months m Never Q4 Who usually reads with your children? (please check all that apply) q Mother q Father q Grandparents q Siblings q Babysitter q Other (please specify) _____________________ Q5 Please rank your satisfaction with the elementary education in Mississippi. (5 being highly satisfied - 1 being highly unsatisfied) m 1 m 2 m 3 m 4 m 5

  • Q6 Do you agree that Mississippis literacy rates among children need to be improved? m Strongly Agree m Agree m Neutral m Disagree m Strongly Disagree Q7 Do you agree that Mississippis literacy rates WILL improve within the next couple of years? m Strongly Agree m Agree m Neutral m Disagree m Strongly Disagree Q8 Please rank the following subjects in order of what you feel is most important in school. (1 being most important - 5 being least important) ______ Science ______ Math ______ Language Arts ______ Social Studies ______ Other (please specify) ____________________________ Q9 Are you familiar with Thacker Mountain Radio? m Yes m No m Somewhat If no, please skip to end of survey Q10 Have you ever attended a Thacker Mountain Radio show? m Yes m No If no, please skip to Q12 Q11 Please rank your satisfaction with the Thacker Mountain Radio shows. (5 being highly satisfied - 1 being highly unsatisfied) m 1 m 2 m 3 m 4 m 5

  • Q12 Wo