Mississippi Spanish-reading program takes a hit during COVID-19

Mississippi Spanish-reading program takes a hit during COVID-19

BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - To keep up with Mississippi’s growing Spanish-speaking population, nearly 20 years ago the Mississippi Humanities Council set up Luciérnagas, a bilingual counterpart to their Family Reading Project.

Now, the project as a whole and those involved with it reflect on nearly a year without a session. It’s one of many educational programs that have been hit hard throughout the pandemic.

“It kind of stinks that we can’t do these programs,” Program Officer Caroline Gillespie said.

The Council uses the project as a way to instill a love of reading among families.

“It is a series of programs we do to connect with families and traditionally underserved communities through really wonderful children’s books,” Gillespie said.

The sessions teach valuable lessons such as bravery, curiosity and coping through stories. The reading groups are held at schools and libraries across the state, teaching reading skills, library help and more English and Spanish.

“It’s so much more than just the books and just the discussion of it,” Gillespie said. “It’s that community (coming) together.”

However, meetings are hard to have during the health crisis.

“COVID-19 has really changed things for us,” Gillespie said.

Host sites found it hard to hold virtual sessions throughout the pandemic, creating a span of almost a year since the last official session.

Organizers said they are seeing the impact of a lack of meetings in the children, families and hosts.

“I think we are all kind of anxious to get going again,” Gillespie said.

Organizers also worry about how the first pandemic in the program’s history might hurt attendance numbers.

“We’ve got children who have grown up and are now participating with their kids,” Gillespie said.

But until meetings start back up, organizers hope families don’t lose their love for reading.

“As soon as we can get back to it I think that we will be glad and we’re hoping that the families will be glad as well,” Gillespie said.

When sessions resume, the Mississippi Humanities Council says it will be looking for host sites across the state.

For more information on the Council’s family reading programs, or to inquire about hosting a series, contact Caroline Gillespie, Program Officer at the Mississippi Humanities Council, at cgillespie@mhc.state.ms.us; (601) 432-6752.

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