EXCELebrates Events: Readiness by Reading Week

By HASKEL BURNS,

Earlier this month, officials from Petal Excel By 5 and the Petal Education Foundation put out the call for participants for “Mississippi EXCELebrates Readiness By Reading” week, designed to give early childhood-centered communities to celebrate the importance of reading to young children.

It didn’t take long for the community to step up, with 12 local organizations hosting “Curious George” themed reading events for children during the week of July 22-28.

“It’s going to be a good week,” said Leahne Lightsey, executive director of the Petal Education Foundation. “Quite frankly, I’m not surprised (about the turnout), because this city steps up when they’re asked to do something, and they’re excited about doing it.

“I had another person (Monday) say they wanted to do it, and I said that we’re full to the brim. Hopefully this will be such as success that we can expand it next year when we do it. So I’m really fired up.”

The schedule for the week is as follows:
• July 23: 10 a.m. at Petal Fire Station on Fairchild Drive; 6 p.m. at McAlister’s Deli on Evelyn Gandy Parkway (kids can eat for 99 cents)
• July 24: 10 a.m. at Magnolia State Bank on Evelyn Gandy Parkway; 6 p.m. at Zaxby’s on Evelyn Gandy Parkway (kids can eat for 99 cents)
• July 25: 10 a.m. at Petal Family Dentistry on South Main Street; 10 a.m. at Lowe’s of Petal on Evelyn Gandy Parkway; 4 p.m. at Petal Animal Clinic on Evelyn Gandy Parkway
• July 26: 10 a.m. at Petal Library on South Main Street; 4 p.m. at Corner Market on South Main Street; 6 p.m. at Fox’s Pizza and Panther Yogurt on Evelyn Gandy Parkway
• July 27: 10 a.m. at the Center for Families and Children on West Central Avenue; 4 p.m. at Lil’ Tots Boutique on Evelyn Gandy Parkway

Volunteers and staff of the organizations will read “Curious George and the Firefighters,” “Curious George Saves His Pennies” and “Curious George and the Ice Cream Surprise” to children during the various events. All events are free and open to the public, and each child will leave with a Curious George book.

The events will also feature visits and photo opportunities from Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat, played by Jason Wade and PJ Keen of Petal-Harvey Baptist Church and Andy Schoggin, chief financial officer at Petal School District.

“I’m proud to represent such a strong part of many young readers’ first experiences with Curious George and The Man in the Yellow Hat,” said Schoggin, who will portray the latter character. “Excel By 5 is a great community partner in supporting early literacy skills.”

Shane Rogers, general manager at McAlister’s Deli, said he’s excited to take part in the program.

“(Petal Excel By 5) is a pretty big deal for the school district,” he said. “We’re all about supporting the school district and the local community, so hopefully it’ll be a decent turnout.”

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