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Arkansas literacy organization celebrating 25th anniversary

North Little Rock Elementary Vision Book  Edit.jpg
Patrick Oliver
Say It Loud!
Students from North Little Rock Elementary work on creating a vision book as part of a Say It Loud! session.

A central Arkansas organization striving to raise literacy rates among young people is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week. The theme will be: "Reflect. Create. Inspire."

Say It Loud! hopes to give children and teenagers the opportunity to interact with writing and publishing professionals. Patrick Oliver, the group's founder, says workshops are scheduled over four days in various schools and community centers.

“We start the programming off on Wednesday with a New York Times bestselling children’s book author and we’ll end the program on Saturday celebrating girls and women in the arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics),” Oliver said in an interview.

Events that highlight and excite young people about literacy are important, he said. The goal of Say It Loud! is to excite students about reading and writing while reminding them that strong literacy skills are important in multiple fields.

“I have never taken the time to measure how we impact children," Oliver said, "but what I do know, when I look back at the young people who have participated in our program I look at what they are doing today professionally.”

According to Oliver, some students have gone on to become law students, nurses, fashion designers, and a variety of other occupations.

“The diversity in terms of personal growth that I saw in the program I’m just excited about, that’s what Say It Loud! does,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years impacted the education system in many ways, he said. The group was no longer allowed to host face-to-face events and Oliver said he noticed how difficult it was to reach students during that time because they were brunt out by being on technology and had suffered from learning loss.

“My anticipation for [what] the 6th or 7th grader should know during this time period, I wasn’t seeing that kind of intellectual growth,” Oliver said. He added that he noticed this after Say It Loud! was able to return to in-person events.

With the end of the school year approaching for many Arkansas students, Oliver said he recommends children of all ages be brought to their local libraries.

“Focus on children’s books,” said Oliver, “I don’t care if your child is in ninth grade. Have those ninth graders read to little brothers and sisters. Make it family time. That is what we need in order for our children to catch up.”

The events to celebrate Say It Loud!’s 25th anniversary will be hosted at various venues in Little Rock.

Wednesday, April 20

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Ananse Journal writing project session for boys with award-winning children’s book author Derrick Barnes. Virtual.

Thursday, April 21

4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Children and Youth Book Fair with Patrick M. Oliver. Sue Cowan Williams Library, 1800 Chester Street.

Friday, April 22

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Readers and Writers hose “My Vision and Game Plan for the Future” sessions in various locations around central Little Rock.

12 p.m. to 1 p.m. National Poetry Month Lunch and Learn session with award-winning poet and author Dr. Randall Horton for high school students. Virtual.

Saturday, April 23

10:30 a.m. Civil Rights Movement and Social Justice Books for Young People with Tiffeni Fortno. Little Rock Central High National Historic Site.

1:00 p.m. Ladies First: Hip-Hop in Rhetoric and Rhyme with Teffeni Fortno, Osiris Bolly and music by DJ Charles Ray. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

2:00 p.m. Literary Arts Community Engagement Awards. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

2:30 p.m. Closing Keynote STEMulated with Simone D. Milton and Katina Latrice White. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

3:00 p.m. Reception and exhibits highlighting current and future Say It Loud! Projects with music by Tony Leeks and friends. Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

More information can be found at