Nearly 40 local children learned about the musical culture of New Orleans during a special program at the Oxford Boys & Girls Club to celebrate National Summer Learning Day on Thursday, July 12.
Sponsored by the LOU Reads Coalition, the event was led by Tamara Hillmer, director of early childhood and reading development and LOU Reads community lead.
LOU Reads was established in 2015 as a partnership of local educational organizations that seeks to improve outcomes for low-income children in four areas: grade-level reading, school readiness, school attendance and summer learning opportunities.
“In planning the Summer Learning Day event, our goal was to provide an educational and fun opportunity for children to play, learn and grow,” said Hillmer, who previously served as principal of Oxford Elementary School. “Through this event, my hope was children became aware of another area’s culture, learned the importance of goal-setting, showed creativity by making their own instruments and practiced important literacy skills. Children were able to receive a book to promote reading throughout the summer.”
Research shows that summer learning loss during elementary school accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading between low-income children and their middle-income peers by ninth grade, according to data from the National Summer Learning Association.
During the event, the children learned about the history of New Orleans and read the book “Trombone Shorty” by Troy Andrews, a biographical account of the acclaimed musician’s youth in the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans.
The book chronicles the artist’s quest to be a musician from his childhood. As part of the presentation, Hillmer showed the children a picture of Andrews playing the trombone at age 4. At the time, Andrews was shorter than the trombone itself, thus his nickname “Trombone Shorty.”
After learning about Andrews, the children also had the chance to experience live music from the Ole Miss Jazz Band and later build their own “Sound Sandwiches,” which are small musical instruments that can be made using tongue depressors and rubber bands.
The Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction (CELI) at the University of Mississippi, is a member of LOU Reads and was a supporting partner in the event.
“One aspect of CELI’s mission is to provide effective service through collaboration with schools, businesses, community organizations and the public at large,” said Angela Rutherford, CELI director. “I really think that the children participating in the Summer Learning Day event were able to make connections to Troy Andrews the trombone player depicted in the book, ‘Trombone Shorty.’ After reading aloud the book, they discussed setting goals like Troy set goals in the book which I think made an impression on them.”
Other community organizations within LOU Reads include: CELI, College Corps, Dr. Maxine Harper Center for Educational Research and Evaluation, Horizons, Jumpstart, McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, Boys & Girls Club of North Mississippi, Excel by 5, Lafayette County Literacy Council, Lafayette Country School District, Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, Leap Frog, LOU-Home, North Mississippi VISTA Project, Oxford Park Commission, Oxford School District, Oxford University School, United Way of Oxford and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.