SHORT the Squirrel promotes literacy, meets lawmakers

Published 8:00 am Monday, March 4, 2024

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Alabama’s literacy mascot, SHORT the Squirrel, traveled to Montgomery Feb. 16 to meet with lawmakers on the first stop of a journey which is taking him into classrooms in Lowndes County and across the state. During the visit, SHORT talked with Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate, Senator Robert Stewart (D-Selma) and other state legislators to advocate for support of educational programming aimed at spreading literacy-rich, community-oriented education to Alabama children.

Pate, a Lowndes County native, stressed the importance of partnerships, like the one between the Alabama Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Program and the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation, which makes the literacy initiative possible.

“It’s encouraging to see organizations like SHORT the Squirrel actively engaging in promoting literacy and education. It’s a reminder that by working together, we can create a more informed community, laying the foundation for a prosperous future in Alabama,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate.  

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SHORT the Squirrel is a nonprofit reading organization creating entertaining narratives to foster curiosity and a love for reading among Alabama children. Founded in 2020 by friends and former Troy University sorority sisters Dee Bennett and Monica Young, the initiative was created to address a shortage of child-appropriate reading materials in common places like banks, doctors offices and courtrooms. 

Since its inception, the organization has developed 14 “SHORT” books available free to children in schools and waiting areas. The books highlight topics like financial literacy, mental health and sustainability while encouraging parents and children to connect for reading.

On the heels of his visit to Alabama’s State House, SHORT celebrated his fourth birthday with a virtual party open to classrooms across the state. Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Samita Jeter said several classrooms registered to attend.

“Some of our K-2 classes are participating,” Jeter said.

According to Alli Bridgers, founder of WYLD FLWR, an agency helping to promote the program, Lowndes County schools are among the program’s strongest supporters.

“Lowndes County has actually been one of the strongest supporters of SHORT’s ‘SHORT in Court’ program,” Bridgers said.

Classrooms at Jackson-Steele Elementary and Central Elementary were among Alabama classrooms registered to attend. 

In Butler County, children at WO Parmer Elementary and Georgiana School also celebrated literacy with SHORT. Butler County Schools Superintendent Joe Eiland said all the system’s elementary schools had been invited to attend.

The event, scheduled for Feb. 22 was free but required online registration. Once registered, teachers received a link for the party and corresponding curriculum, enabling them to integrate the program into classroom lesson plans.

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