SHORT the Squirrel promotes literacy

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

SHORT the Squirrel, Alabama’s literacy mascot, continues to champion reading and imagination among the state’s youth with its innovative initiatives and community partnerships. Founded in 2020 by Troy University sorority sisters Monica Anderson Young and Dr. Dee Dupree Bennett, SHORT the Squirrel is a nonprofit reading initiative with a mission to foster a love for reading in Alabama’s youngest citizens through literacy-rich, community-oriented and enjoyable content.

SHORT visited Luverne Elementary School in March, serving as the grand marshall of the school’s vocabulary parade. 

Luverne Elementary principal Jennifer Gilmore, emphasized the significance of partnerships like the one between the Alabama State Department of Education and initiatives such as SHORT the Squirrel, in advancing literacy.

“It’s encouraging to see organizations like SHORT the Squirrel actively engaging in promoting literacy and education,” said Gilmore. “By working together, we can create a more informed community, laying the foundation for a prosperous future in Alabama.”

The initiative, featuring SHORT as a curious squirrel accompanied by his friend “Owl-Livia,” aims to engage children in exploring their surroundings and enjoying reading. SHORT is dedicated to creating vibrant, engaging narratives that entertain while fostering a sense of community, curiosity and joy among young readers.

According to SHORT’S website, SHORT the Squirrel is a nonprofit organization with the mission of cultivating a love for reading and igniting the imaginations of Alabama’s youngest citizens through literacy-rich, community-oriented and fun content. 

“SHORT makes countless visits to schools across the state, offering supplemental curriculum for classrooms based on its 13+ grant-funded reading materials and activity booklets,” Bridgers said. “SHORT also works with local businesses and organizations to turn waiting time into reading time. SHORT aims to make reading accessible and enjoyable for all. Since its inception, the organization has developed 14 “SHORT” books available to children for free in common waiting areas like doctors’ offices, banks and courtrooms and offered as supplemental curriculum in Alabama classrooms.”

Recently, SHORT invited students and teachers statewide to participate in crafting his next book, “Where SHORT Loves to Read.” Students were encouraged to showcase their favorite reading spots through illustrations and captions, with entries due by April 11. A panel of judges will select several illustrations and captions to be used in SHORT’s upcoming book, with winners to be announced on May 6.

Looking ahead, SHORT is partnering with the Children’s Policy Council of Crenshaw County to distribute “SHORT’s Feelings,” made possible through the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

“After working with our initial booklet ‘SHORT in Court’, our team was made aware of how many children are involved in cases linked to mental health,” Bridger said. “We worked with Dr. Dallas Rabig and the Department of Mental Health to prepare the content and gather facts to incorporate in the booklet. Commissioner Boswell was instrumental in the initial distribution of ‘SHORT’s Feelings’ through a partnership with National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Alabama.”

A grant will allow copies of ‘SHORT’s Feelings’ literacy kits to be distributed to all 67 counties later this year.

SHORT would love to visit schools in Crenshaw County and across the state, to help promote summer reading and any summer programs being hosted by public and private schools. If educators or librarians are interested in inviting SHORT, they can schedule a visit online at www.shortthesquirrel.com.

Photos courtesy of www.shortthesquirrel.com