Mayor, Community Leaders Applaud Major Investment in City’s Literacy Efforts

Denine Torr, left, senior director of Community Initiatives for Dollar General, presents the check to Mayor David Briley, who accepted it on behalf of the Blueprint Steering Committee. Photos submitted

NASHVILLE, TN — Mayor David Briley and community education leaders gathered today to celebrate the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s $800,000 investment in the Blueprint for

Denine Torr, senior director of Community Initiatives for Dollar General, announces the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s investment of $800,000. This investment includes an immediate donation of $500,000 and an additional matching donation of up to $300,000 that will be used to double future community giving.

Early Childhood Success, a citywide framework to double the number of Nashville third-graders reading on grade level by 2025. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s investment marks an important milestone for Nashville’s early literacy efforts, with the first phase of the Blueprint now 75 percent funded.

“Early literacy is critical to the future success of our great city. That is why improving literacy rates for kids across the city is one of my top priorities as mayor and why I am proud to be part of the Blueprint work,” said Mayor David Briley. “But turning the tide on this issue doesn’t just happen in the public sector; this work requires support from organizations across the city. We are grateful to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation and our other private funders for stepping up to invest in this plan. I hope today’s announcement, including the Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s matching gift, will inspire and incentivize further collaboration and giving across the city.”

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation structured the grant to include an immediate donation of $500,000 and an additional matching donation up to $300,000 that will be used to double future community giving.

“Dollar General and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation are passionate about supporting

l-r; Angie Adams, PENCIL Foundation; Tara Scarlett, Scarlett Foundation; Denine Torr, Dollar General; Kent Oliver, Nashville Public Library;
Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS; Erica Mitchell, United Way of Metropolitan Nashville; Shannon Hunt, Nashville Public Education Foundation; Shawn Bakker, Nashville Public Library Foundation

innovative efforts to improve early literacy across the country, and we are especially inspired by the work happening in our hometown through the Blueprint for Early Childhood Success,” said Denine Torr, senior director of Community Initiatives for Dollar General. “Nashville’s plan is unique in that it is championed not just by one stakeholder, but by many. It is exciting to see the way organizations across the city are already supporting this effort programmatically and philanthropically, and we hope these funds will encourage others to step forward and continue the collaboration.”

The Nashville Literacy Collaborative (NLC) — a working group of 20 organizations convened by the Mayor’s Office, MNPS, the Nashville Public Education Foundation, and the Nashville Public Library — released the Blueprint in fall 2017 to address Nashville’s critical early literacy deficit. This ambitious plan combines the thought leadership of the NLC, literacy groups, faith and volunteer partners, parents, students, and educators to create a shared implementation framework composed of 29 recommendations.

“While in its infancy, the Blueprint has already achieved significant gains. The plan is now led by a multi-agency Steering Committee, and five community working groups are being formed to drive collective efforts. We have also launched large-scale efforts to bolster summer reading programs; recruited nearly 200 partners as neighborhood reading champions; created the Jump In community literacy awareness campaign, which engages families across the city and has a deep focus in five high-poverty neighborhoods; and launched a six-school pilot to test new curriculum and other school-based interventions. We also are developing a training program for public and private pre-K providers and will kick off a Spark Grant program to seed the innovative work of local nonprofits this fall,” said Shannon Hunt, president and CEO of the Nashville Public Education Foundation, one of 10 representatives on the Community Steering Committee. “The leadership and vision of Dollar General, and of all our partners who have invested in the plan, allow us to take this work to the next level.”

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s investment, combined with substantial donations from the Scarlett Foundation, the Dan and Margaret Maddox Charitable Fund, The Nashville Predators Foundation, Ingram Charities, and several others, will allow for accelerated progress on the core recommendations of the Blueprint. This includes strengthening birth-through-age-3 supports, improving access to quality pre-K education, strengthening the district’s ability to meet literacy needs, reducing chronic absenteeism, curbing summer reading loss, and raising awareness about the importance of early literacy.

“Improving early literacy remains one of the top priorities for the district,” said Dr. Shawn Joseph, MNPS director of schools. “This is a citywide problem that requires a citywide effort. The Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s investment gets us that much closer to seeing the vision of the Blueprint come to life. I look forward to seeing the ripple effect of support that is sure to follow today’s announcement.”

Members of the Blueprint Community Steering Committee include: Alignment Nashville (Melissa Jaggers), the Center for Nonprofit Management (Samantha Wigand), the Dollar General Literacy Foundation (Denine Torr), Mayor Briley’s Office, MNPS (Dr. Shawn Joseph and Dr. Monique Felder), Nashville Public Education Foundation (Shannon Hunt and Jennifer Hill), the Nashville Public Library (Kent Oliver), the Scarlett Foundation (Tara Scarlett) and the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville (Erica Mitchell).

“I see the impact reading has on children every single day,” said Kent Oliver, Nashville Public Library director. “Strong reading skills can mean the difference between a child’s succeeding and a child’s dropping out of school. Through the initiatives being put in place thanks to the Blueprint, children will have more opportunities to read and, therefore, more opportunities for the future. We must continue to work together to guarantee a brighter future for our kids.”

To view the full Blueprint or learn more, visit blueprintforearlychildhoodsuccess.com

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