Reads, Beats, and Eats
Literacy Council Fundraiser Brings Community Together
BY REBECCA LAUCK CLEARY
It’s always exciting to attend an event combining Oxford’s literary culture, music, and food. With Reads, Beats, and Eats, everyone can support literacy programs and a love of reading.
Reads, Beats, and Eats, set for 7 p.m. Saturday, April 7 at the Barksdale-Isom House, raises awareness and funds for the Lafayette County Literacy Council. Tickets are $50 and are available at Square Books, Belles and Beaus, or by calling 662-234-4234.
Executive Director Sarah McLellan said it can be hard to imagine illiteracy as a significant problem in Oxford and Lafayette County, but helping even one adult learn to read or make sure a child doesn’t fall further behind is vitally important. Most people who live in this community — known for its university, strong public schools and relative wealth — are surprised to learn that estimates show 20-25 percent of Lafayette County adults can’t read well enough to fill out a job application.
“It can be hard to imagine illiteracy as a significant problem in Oxford and Lafayette County, but helping even one adult learn to read or make sure a child doesn’t fall further behind is vitally important.”
“The Literacy Council’s mission is to improve the quality of life in Oxford and Lafayette County through literacy and reading,” McLellan said. “We work hard to enroll every child from birth to age five in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. These children receive a free book in the mail every month. The Adult Basic Literacy Education program has three learners that have passed their GED and many more that are getting very close. This program pairs a learner with a coach who works with them one-on-one to help them reach their goal.”
The Council sees Reads, Beats, and Eats as their biggest fundraiser, benefitting the programs for adults and children. Besides purchasing a ticket, people can become a sponsor (with a nod to famous literary awards) or contribute silent auction items. Silent auction items include artwork, photographs, and signed copies of authors’ books, among others. Live auction items include an all-inclusive five-day luxury trip to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with airfare included, Ole Miss baseball and football packages, and an Oxford restaurant dining package valued at $1,000.
“We have four levels of sponsorships that people can choose from — Nobel, Pulitzer, National Book Award, and Newbery Award,” McLelland said. “Sponsors receive free drink tickets, tickets to the event, a table, and more.”
“Estimates show 20-25 percent of Lafayette County adults can’t read well enough to fill out a job application.”
The event takes an all hands on deck approach; everyone pitches in to make it successful.
“We start planning almost a year in advance, and the event is focused on celebrating the aspects of what makes Oxford unique: Literary, Culinary and Music,” said Mary Moreton, president of the Board of Directors. “This year the garden party themed night will be held in the backyard of the historic Barksdale-Isom house with catering by Tallahatchie Gourmet and dessert by Susan Seay.”
While Reads, Beats, and Eats is a casual gathering under the stars, attendees have several opportunities for fun.
“We also have a wine dash, and this year we are honored to have Southern Foodways Alliance Director John T. Edge as our Master of Ceremonies and Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly as our Guest of Honor,” McLellan said. “Damein Wash and Ricky Burkhead are playing music for the second year in a row.”
Combining the literature and musical components of Reads, Beats, and Eats, Edge recently published “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South” and Fennelly’s most recent book is “Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro Memoirs.” Wash is an active conductor, composer, performer, and producer who is classically trained with gospel music and blues as his roots. Burkhead is the director of percussion studies at the University of Mississippi, where he has been on the faculty since 1994, and formed the formed the UM Steel Drum Band in 1995.
And who knows? Encouraging literacy may just mean Oxford produces another award-winning writer or musician.