Literacy conference has goal of passing on the passion of reading

Jasmine Murray
Jasmine Murray

The Mississippi Readers Association began its annual conference Wednesday at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi and the conference will run through Friday afternoon.

The conference is expected to attract more than 500 college students, professors, teachers, assistant teachers, administrators and superintendents and provide them with the latest learning tools to improve literacy with their respective student bodies.

“We have a wide variety of topics at different grade levels, ranging from pre-K all the way to the collegiate level,” said conference chairwoman Stephanie Peets, MRA’s incoming president for 2017-18.

A full-time teacher, Peets said about past conferences, “It has helped me in the classroom to get new ideas, new techniques and strategies, then to come together and meet other educators who are doing the same thing and have the same passion that I have about literacy.

“You’re a lifelong learner as an educator and education is always changing the children are exposed to so many things today socially and through the media.

“It’s just good to know how to deal with the changes.”

Jasmine Murray, former Miss Mississippi, was the special guest speaker for the opening session Wednesday, sharing her literacy story. Several breakout sessions are planned, and exhibitors will showcase the latest and updated teaching resources.

Other guest speakers at the conference:

▪ Brod Bagert, a former New Orleans city councilman and trial attorney who became a self-taught poet and uses interactive poetry to help children improve their reading and writing skills and develop the courage to speak in public.

▪ Amy Emerson, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based pediatrician who educates people on early childhood teaching skills and promotes the campaign “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing.”

▪ Steven Lane, a literacy education professor, author and motivational speaker who strives to foster the love of reading in kids.

“The conference is set up to cover education in the reading and literacy fields: Reading, writing, speaking, listening and viewing,” said Jo Prather, a lead volunteer and former MRA president. “We want every child to be at the top of their game as far as those things in literacy. In order to do that, we want to provide for the people that are going to be working with them the opportunity to learn new strategies but not forget the old strategies. We want a Neiman Marcus education for every kid in the state.”

Prather will also host and lead the roundtable discussion in the conference.

“Our breakout sessions bring ideas into the conference to share with the people who are attending so that they can go home and share it with their students and their colleague, so that they grow their literacy across the state,” said Peets, who added the goals of the conference are to “have an increased love and rekindling of the passion (teachers) have for literacy and teaching and take a refreshed feeling and excitement to go back to the kids they have in the classroom and spread that excitement.”