CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (WDVM) — Mercedez Speight holds the title of Miss Black West Virginia USA, but her title isn’t the only thing she’s raving about.
Speight’s platform focuses on improving child literacy in West Virginia. As a promise to do that, she made a stop in Charles Town July 17 to see some familiar faces.
“Saturdays when I was a kid, mom use to take us to the Miami Day Public Library, then when I moved to West Virginia I got involved with volunteering at the Charles Town Library,” Speight said.
A group of children stopped by the Charles Town Library to listen on as Speight read a couple of books. Deborah Stafford, children coordinator for the library, noted how important it is for kids to continue reading even throughout the summer.
“Some of these kids have already been in school, so they’ve gotten the basics down but when summertime comes and they’re not in class, a lot of them lose some of their skills, so what we want to prevent is that summer slide, it’s important to get them into the libraries,” Stafford said.
According to READ Berkeley in Berkeley County, West Virginia, 20% of all West Virginia residents read below grade-level. In addition, the organization’s report shared that 16% of children not reading at grade-level by the end of the third grade do not graduate high school.
This past year, Speight taught an ESL grammar and reading class for non-native English speakers through the organization Literacy Volunteers of America.