Literacy Mid-South Executive Director Kevin Dean to Step Down After Five Years at Helm

Dear supporters,

I have had such a wonderful adventure with Literacy Mid-South. From the moment I walked in the door on my first day, I felt like I was home. I have made incredible lifelong friends with my coworkers, the board members, our volunteers, and many of you. Today, though, I am announcing that I will step down from my position as Executive Director following a five-year tenure with the organization.

11043177_10152757618861032_6343002988607011833_nI’m honored to have been given the opportunity to lead such an inspiring organization that constantly strives to improve literacy rates in Memphis for children and adults. In my five years at the helm, we’ve made tremendous progress in expanding our programming and services and promoting a community of readers. I feel now is the appropriate time to pass the torch and allow the next leader to make his or her mark on our community. This is truly an exciting time for Literacy Mid-South and Shelby County, and I can’t wait to see what the two accomplish together in the next five years and beyond.

Thanks to our staff, board, and people like you, we have begun a multitude of initiatives for Literacy Mid-South that have helped the organization achieve the following milestones:

  • Tripled the liquid assets of the organization
  • Increased staff from five people to 46 people (beginning this summer)
  • Overhauled programming to add new programs like the Read Memphis Project and a summer reading program for 3,000 children
  • Created the first-ever adult-learning mobile app for volunteer tutors
  • Increased the number of adults served in Memphis from 500 to 1,500, making the Adult Learning Program one of the largest in the South
  • Decentralized the 40 year-old Adult Learning Program from office space in Cooper Young to 31 different libraries throughout the Mid-South
  • Founded the first-ever Mid-South Book Festival, which is now one of the largest book festivals in the South in only its third year
  • Redistributed saved money to become a granting organization for other education nonprofits, distributing millions of dollars in resources every year
  • Nationally-recognized by ProLiteracy, the Nonprofit Times, and Nonprofit Quarterly
  • Literacy Mid-South continues to need your support. As we make this transition, we will rely heavily on your continued support to ensure an easy transition.

Thank you for all that you’ve done. I have been inspired daily by your unflinching desire to collaborate and work together towards this huge goal of eliminating low literacy in the Mid-South. YOU ARE AMAZING.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Kevin Dean
Executive Director
Literacy Mid-South

PS. The fun isn’t over yet! Wait until you see our new website, our new logo, and a new program launching very soon!!


20 Secrets About The Mid-South That Book Lovers Will Enjoy

secrets revealed

This week we’ve compiled the Mid-South’s most bookish secrets, just for book lovers! How many of these facts did you know?

michael jackson

Michael Jackson has shopped at Burke’s Book Store.

Charlaine Harris, author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka Sookie Stackhouse) novels, attended Rhodes College.

John Grisham’s first novel was not The Firm, as many believe. Grisham began writing his first novel, A Time To Kill, in 1984.

danny thomas

Danny Thomas’ last public appearance was at a book signing at Davis Kidd Booksellers in Memphis.

W.C. Handy is most known for being the “Father of the Blues.” He was also an accomplished author, and published five books during his musical career.

Lisa Patton, bestselling author of the Dixie series, attended Hutchison School in Memphis.

virginia frazier boyle

Virgina Boyle, “Poet Laureate to the Confederacy,” is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

pinocchio's bookstore

Until it closed in October of 2012, Pinocchio’s Bookstore was the oldest children’s bookstore in Memphis.

Tennessee Williams spent some of his childhood in Clarksdale, Mississippi after his grandfather was assigned as a minister in a parish there.

Memphis author Shelby Foote did all of his writing by hand, as he disliked the typewriter.

Contrary to the scene in Silence of the Lambs, the building Hannibal Lecter escapes from is Pittsburgh’s Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, not the Shelby County Courthouse.

A bomb shelter is built beneath The Booksellers at Laurelwood. It is now being used as office space for the staff.

eric jerome dickey

Author Eric Jerome Dickey grew up on Kansas Street in South Memphis.

The Memphis Public Library was founded in 1893.

Famous adventure journalist, novelist, and Memphis resident Richard Halliburton was assumed lost at sea in March of 1939. His empty grave is at Forest Hill cemetery.

Burke’s Book Store was originally opened on Main Street downtown shortly after the Civil War.

Commercial Appeal writer Jody Callahan appeared on Jeopardy in 2006.

William Faulkner died at Wright’s Sanatorium in 1962 in Byhalia, MS*.

The Commercial Appeal was first published in 1841.

Photo by Jim Weber. Accessed via The Commercial Appeal.

The Memphis Literacy Council was co-founded by a Holocaust survivor, Nina Katz.

How many of those secrets did you already know? Do you have any others? If so, sound off in the comments! 

If you want to sate more of your bookish hunger, be sure to put the Mid-South Book Festival on your calendar. We’ll have tons of authors, literary events, and a street fair. We hope to see you there!

*Faulkner also served as Postmaster at the University of Mississippi in 1921, a position that he resigned from. Check out his resignation letter

Happy New Year, and a Hearty Welcome!

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Happy New Year! Like so many of you, Literacy Mid-South made a New Year’s resolution. Our resolution: find new and innovative ways to spread our message throughout the community.

To that end, welcome to the new and official blog of Literacy Mid-South! We intend for this new space to help in our efforts to educate and inform the Mid-South about the valuable work that we do, the important issues our community faces, and the faces of those who are actively engaged in changing the literacy rates in Memphis.

In Shelby County alone, 14% of adults read at or below a 3rd grade level.  The reading proficiency rate is only 32% among 3rd grade students in Shelby County Schools.  Those numbers are depressing.  The good news is that there is a lot of energy around literacy and lifelong learning in the Mid-South, with organizations like Literacy Mid-South, Books from Birth, story booth at Crosstown Arts, Memphis Teacher Residency, and Seeding Success making headway for children and adults.  We also have amazing events like the Mid-South Book Festival.

In our blog we’ll be:

  • Profiling Literacy Mid-South employees, students, board members, and volunteers
  • Providing information and updates about our Mid-South Book Festival
  • Discussing important literacy issues that impact our workforce, families, and schools
  • Providing useful tips for creating a new generation of lifelong learners

We look forward to hearing your feedback.

Want to more know about our impact, volunteers, and mission? Check out our Annual Report and visit us at