‘Tea with Miss Tennessee’ boosts literacy program

Miss Tennessee Grace Burgess was in Bartlett Feb. 25 to promote a cause that’s close to her heart: Early childhood literacy. The Bartlett native was the main attraction at “Tea with Miss Tennessee,” an event designed to raise money for “Books from Birth,” a program that provides free age-appropriate books each month to children under age 5 across Shelby County.

The program is the largest affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and is in collaboration with the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation.

Burgess has been a volunteer with Books from Birth since she was at Bartlett High School, both in raising funds and in being a representative for early childhood literacy. Her efforts to date have raised more than $12,000 for the cause and helped to distribute about 6,000 books.

The Books from Birth program is available to all 66,659 eligible children in Shelby County. The cost of providing one child with a year’s worth of Imagination Library books is $25, shared evenly between each county program and the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation through its annual grant approved by the Tennessee General Assembly.

More than 4.1 million books have been delivered in Shelby County, with 67.4 percent of the county’s preschoolers receiving books. In February alone, 44,938 books were delivered in Shelby County. Parents can sign their children up online at governorsfoundation.org/enroll.

As part of the Tea with Miss Tennessee program, Burgess delivered a few remarks and a vocal performance for the audience. Also highlighting the event’s agenda were Ron Childers, chief meteorologist for WMC Action News 5 and emcee for the event; Bartlett vice mayor and alderman Jack Young, who introduced Burgess; and Jamila Wicks, executive director of Books from Birth.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138, bartlett.editor@journalinc.com or carolyn.bahm@journalinc.com.