Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, BookNook Recognize Literacy Partnerships, Excelling Students


Memphis, Tenn. – On Saturday, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and digital application, BookNook, hosted the first ever Leader in Literacy Awards virtually to recognize dedicated community and congregational partners for expanding literacy efforts in Memphis. Individual students also were recognized for their accomplishments in reading proficiency.
“Only twenty five percent of third graders in Shelby County are reading at grade level,” said Rev. Stacy Smith, director of the Center of Excellence in Faith and Health Equity with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. “Third grade reading predicts high school graduation rates and future levels of health literacy. We need to ensure these students have access to meaningful resources so they can, for example, understand doctors’ orders and medication instructions to positively influence their personal health outcomes.”
The BookNook program emphasis third grade readiness for kindergarten through fifth grade students. Curriculum focuses on core reading competencies like comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, and fluency. Students are encouraged to read alone, challenge each other, and participate in team building exercises led by teachers or volunteers.
The Leader in Literacy Awards recognized the following:

  • Joshua Armstrong, Bethel Grove Elementary, received the “Accelerating Student Scholar Award” for showing the greatest dedication to reading improvement. 
  • Mareli Rameiz, Kingsbury Elementary School, accepted the “Most Improved Student Scholar Award” for reading level advancement. 
  • The Literacy Advocate Award acknowledged BookNook champion Donzehelia Johnson, Associate Pastor of Dominion Church and Whitehaven Connector for Centers for Transforming Communities, for connecting students in South Memphis with BookNook locations. 
  • St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church was honored with theAbove and Beyond Award” for their perseverance throughout the pandemic to make BookNook accessible to students. 
  • Rev. Tondala Hayward, Associate Pastor at Collierville United Methodist Church, received the “Program Legacy Award” for her early adoption of BookNook and guidance on shaping the program. 
  • The Dedication to Literacy Award recognized Cam Echols and the Refugee Empowerment Program staff for continuous efforts to educate and support students and families of refugee and immigrant populations in Memphis.

MLH partnered with BookNook Learning and the Urban Child Institute in 2019 to address critical issues in literacy among students in Shelby County. Initially a dozen after-school sites, including mostly churches, implemented the program. Currently over 75 locations, including 40 schools in Shelby County, offer the BookNook platform.
Photo collage attached. Top row from left: Mareli Rameiz, Kingsbury Elementary School; Refugee Empowerment Program; and Donzehelia Johnson, Associate Pastor of Dominion Church and Whitehaven Connector for Centers for Transforming Communities. Bottom row from left: Rev. Tondala Hayward, Associate Pastor at Collierville United Methodist Church; St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church and Joshua Armstrong, Bethel Grove Elementary.
About Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare
Based in Memphis, Tennessee, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare (MLH) has been caring for patients and families regardless of ability to pay for more than 100 years. Guided by roots in the United Methodist Church and founded in 1918 to help meet the growing need for quality healthcare in the greater Memphis area, MLH has grown from one hospital into a comprehensive healthcare system with 13,000 Associates supporting six hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, outpatient facilities, hospice residence and physician practices serving communities across the Mid-South. From transplants and advanced heart procedures to expert neurology services and compassionate cancer care, MLH offers clinical expertise with a focus on improving every life we touch.
Stay up-to-date with us on social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
# # #