KNOXVILLE, Tenn — The Read City USA challenge is kicking off again in Knox County in an effort to get kids and adults excited about reading.
For 2023, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs is challenging the community to go 'platinum' by clocking in a collective total of one million reading hours over the year. He will kick the event off with the Read City Band at the Historic Bijou Theatre in Knoxville on Jan. 24. He will also be joined by New York Times Best-selling illustrator Daniel Wiseman for a demonstration.
Read City USA will include three different challenges during the year where readers of different ages can earn prizes by logging their reading time. People can log their reading or audiobook listening hours with the Beanstack Tracker app or by filling out a log to turn in to one of the Knox County Public Library branches.
From Jan. 24 through April 8, the first gig of the challenge is asking people to "Find Your Voice" by logging 36 total hours of reading or listening to audiobooks. Prizes for logging in the hours include an inflatable microphone for younger kids, building block music instruments for older kids, and a library notepad for teens and adults.
People and groups who complete all three challenges this year will be entered into a drawing for a grand prize. Kids will be entered into a drawing to win a gaming system, adults can win an iPad, and groups that complete all the challenges can win a party with the mayor tailored for up to 100 people.
Mayor Jacobs started Read City USA in 2019 to help increase literacy rates.
In 2021, Knox County Schools Superintendent Jon Rysewyk said roughly 40% of Knox County students were reading at their grade level by the third grade—a milestone grade for several indicators including future graduation rates, incarceration projections, and earning capacity.
The most recent TCAP results for the 2021-22 academic year showed 36.4% of all Tennessee students were meeting grade-level expectations in English language arts. As a district, Knox County performed above the state average at 40%, with elementary students showing the largest gains in ELA improvement at 42%.