Kevin Brown is passionate about helping others, and his latest project involves childhood literacy.
Brown has been working for nonprofits for 20 years, most recently with Y.U.N.G. Citizens — Youth Undertaking New Goals.
"We want to increase the literacy ability of the students here in Pike County," Brown said. "Anybody can go online and look at our statistics as a state and see where we are ranked as far as literacy levels.”
Brown said a new requirement approved in 2013 for all third-graders to pass a reading test before being promoted to the fourth grade has raised the stakes.
“That third through fourth grade portal ties to graduation rates,” he said.
Brown recently set up a way for children to check out books without having to go to a library.
Newspaper boxes containing books are set up in Pike and Franklin counties.
“We wanted to put them in high-traffic and densely populated areas,” he said of the boxes donated by the Enterprise-Journal. “We have four right now. We have one in White Acres at the public housing, we have one in Bude, Mississippi, in Franklin County at Coach’s Corner.
“The other two, one is at the Laundry Basket in Summit and the fourth is at Munchies” on Pearl River Avenue.
When a child takes a book, they are supposed to bring it back to that location within two weeks. When returning it, they are asked to fill out a questionnaire and leave it in the book. The questionnaire is not only used for a drawing for a prize but it is also a way for children to connect.
“It is an honor system and we have a slip in there called “My Block Questionnaire,” Brown said. “There are a series of questions that we ask them to fill out and upon their return to the box every month we are going to take those and do a drawing. So the more books they read and the more questionnaires that they fill out, the greater their chances are for winning.”
Brown is asking for donations of unused books that can be used in the program. Drop off locations are ImageMaker Photography on Highway 51 near Summit and the other is the McComb Animal Hospital on Presley Boulevard.
He is also hoping for books on a wide array of topics that will interest a child.
Brown said he not only wants the children to read to themselves but he is also encouraging them to share the books with friends and siblings and for the parents to read to the children as well.
Brown’s inspiration for the project came at an early age.
“I grew up in low-income housing and we didn’t have cell phones or internet or anything of that nature,” he said. “My mom bought an encyclopedia set and I remember flipping through those pages and that was my exposure to the world.
“When you grow up in certain environments, all you see is bricks, litter, overgrown lots and things of that nature, so that was my escape.”
The program also extends online with a YouTube channel. Brown”s daughter reads some of the books for the children similar to an audiobook program. Y.U.N.G Citizens also has Facebook and Instagram pages with more information on the program as well.
Munchies owner Shantel McComb is glad to help out with the program by having a box set up outside her business.
“We’ve been doing things at this restaurant to help out the community for the past five years now,” she said. “Anybody that approaches me and wants to help out with kids, I am down with it. When he (Brown) approached me it wasn’t a question, it was when he wanted to get started.”
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For more information or to donate to the program, call (601) 890-1554 or email yungcitizens@gmail.