New program promotes community wide reading in Ocean Springs - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

New program promotes community wide reading in Ocean Springs

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With a $5,000 donation Monday, the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce provided the seed money to jump start the "Mary C. Reads!" program. The main goal behind the campaign is to create a community of avid readers. With a $5,000 donation Monday, the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce provided the seed money to jump start the "Mary C. Reads!" program. The main goal behind the campaign is to create a community of avid readers.
OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) -

A new program in Ocean Springs is trying to promote reading citywide. It could also help the city attract writers and publishers from across the country. On Monday, the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center officially launched a program aimed at turning the city into a literary arts destination.

With a $5,000 donation Monday, the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce provided the seed money to jump start the "Mary C. Reads!" program. The main goal behind the campaign is to create a community of avid readers.

"This is an investment and an opportunity for parents and children to read better, which is a critical part of the future of the state of Mississippi," said Margaret Miller, Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.

Here's how Mary C. Reads! works:

Every few months, the Mary C. O'Keefe Cultural Center will choose a book. The first book is "A Sound Like Thunder" by Alabama author Sonny Brewer. Everyone in Ocean Springs is encouraged to read that book and discuss it, either in groups or through social media.

The Mary C. is also donating the book to the Ocean Springs School District and neighboring libraries. And more than 200-copies are on sale at art galleries, restaurants, and shops in Ocean Springs. The retailers are Hillyer House, Coffee Fusion, Pink Rooster, Lee Tracy and Gina's Gift Shop.

"Anytime we have an event in town, it helps our downtown. But we are so fortunate that we're trying to gather all the community, whether it be the young, middle, or older, to all come out and read and enjoy," said Paige Riley, owner of Hillyer House.

Eventually, the program will expand to include author visits, book signings, and family activities that tie-in with the book's theme. 

"We're going to have an event where we'll have nautical knot tying, we'll have cast net demonstrations, and the author will be there to discuss the book and sign books," said Bryant Whelan, Executive Director of the Mary C. "Anytime we can encourage reading, it's always a positive thing."

Plans are also underway to create a reading room at the Mary C. in hopes of turning it into a hub for literary arts.

"It's important to get everyone reading and to rally around. Hopefully, it'll have a lot of spin off programs where we can get publishers to come here, authors to come here and write," said Whelan. "I'm very excited!  We've been planning this for a few months now and everything is falling into place and it's just going to be great."

The Mary C. is also planning a book fair and inviting publishers to come to promote their books.

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