“Reading is fundamental” speaks to the importance of literacy. Two men who certainly agree are Lyon County High School Principal Thomas Radivonyk and the late J.L. Turner, a co-founder of Dollar General Stores.
While they approach the topic from opposite ends of the spectrum, their organizations are teaming in this age of digital technology to promote reading.
Radivonyk is in his third year of leading the school, but his seventh year there overall, after four years as an English teacher. “I still think there is value in students’ falling in love with the written word on the page,” Radivonyk said.
He loves the smell of the print of a new book, but also “even the smell of an old book, that sort of musty smell. There’s a lot of charm to it and that olfactory response to it. It engages a lot more of your senses than just a computer screen.”
Even so, this modern educator also sees a very practical aspect to the topic. “Really, the literature anthologies they’re using now are the same ones I used. They had several years of wear on them then,” he explained. “So, it is time for us to upgrade some of those dog-eared tomes and get some new books.”
As public budgets tighten and the coronavirus limits interaction, technology increasingly is seen as an answer. “We’re looking at purchasing 60 literature anthologies,” said the principal. “Two thousand dollars won’t (cover the costs), but it’s a good start.”
That’s what Dollar General will donate, funding half of the books needed. Since anthologies contain selections of short stories, poems, and dramatic selections from a range of writers, the compact collections offer a diverse view of literature.
“Dollar General’s longstanding commitment to literacy and education may best be understood through the company’s history and most notably through the story of the company’s co-founder, J.L. Turner,” according to Dollar General’s website. “Turner was functionally illiterate with only a third-grade education. Yet with hard work and determination, J.L. Turner went on to co-found Dollar General.”
The site continues, “In 1993, his grandson and then-CEO Cal Turner Jr. founded the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to honor his grandfather and support education initiatives. Since its inception 26 years ago, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has given more than $168 million to improve more than 10 million people through literacy.”
“I just think it’s a good aspect of a healthy lifestyle, to read the printed word on the page,” Radivonyk said. He concedes, “This is kind of ironic timing, because right now, we’re doing everything digitally and probably will for the foreseeable future because best practice right now in the day of COVID, it’s the exact opposite of everything that we did before. We’re having to rethink our way of doing things.”
Even so, he acknowledges, “I’m kind of a staunch believer in print media and in having it in front of kids. In fact, the last couple of years, we’ve had a ‘drop everything and read’ time for about 20 minutes. Now, we’re probably going to continue with that, but most everything is being done through Chromebooks.”
Whether it occurs through the latest technology or a book that’s musty and frayed, Radivonyk believes, “Reading opens the window to all other learning. So, it is the most critical of all foundational skills. If someone can fall in love with literature, they can find a lifelong entertainment. Young people today crave something real.”
The principal concluded, “Thank you to Dollar General for this effort. We can pick up the rest of the cost on this and make it happen and give our kids some new books.”