Path to Literacy

I Believe I Can Fly

Jesse Cradduck

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries Literacy Resource Office, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, shared Jesse’s story with us. 

“Jesse Cradduck is the smartest person I know. He was functionally illiterate until age 30, but reached for his dreams and never gave up.”
—Leslie Gelders, Literacy Director, Oklahoma Department of Libraries

When Jesse was 3 years old he was involved in a car accident that scarred his face and left him with partial hearing loss. Another car accident when he was 7 killed his mother. He was left with deep physical and emotional scars. After his mother’s death, he was raised by his grandmother and lived in extreme poverty. 

Jesse never learned to read during school. He made it through the sixth grade before dropping out to find work. 

By this point, Jesse was 13, and he had been moved to his aunt’s house where he had a room on the back porch with no insulation from the cold winters, and no relief from the hot Oklahoma summers. 

He worked an average of 60 hours a week mowing lawns, performing odd jobs, and cleaning his uncle’s bar until late in the night.

During this time, Jesse met Shirley. He married her at age 15 and they had their first child a year later. Life was difficult for this new family, but Jesse was determined to provide stability. He did not want to live off relatives or take handouts from the government. He worked hard to find stable and sustainable employment, but Jesse continuously ran into obstacles due to his inability to read. 

After years of hardship, Jesse’s strong faith led him to ministry. This was extremely challenging and stressful because he still could not read. With Shirley’s help, Jesse memorized scripture and began preaching in a small church in Oklahoma City.

The pressure of “faking it” in life became too much for Jesse to bear and he ended up in the hospital with what he thought was a heart attack. The doctor recognized that his condition was caused by overwhelming stress, and that his inability to read was causing much of his anxiety. Jesse was referred to a local literacy program where he was matched with a literacy tutor who taught him how to read.

As his literacy skills started to improve, Jesse’s desire to learn also increased. He went on to earn his high school diploma and enrolled at Southwestern Christian University, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree and a master’s in church growth studies. He later received a doctorate from the American Bible School and Seminary.

He even wrote a book—I Believe I Can Fly. In it, Jesse shares his story and encourages others to learn to read or teach someone to read. 

At age 68, Jesse is still married to Shirley, still serves as a pastor, gives speeches around the world, and inspires others to reach for their dreams.

2022 Read Across Oklahoma

Read Across Oklahoma Returns with Free Book Giveaway and Both Live and Online Entertainment and Activities

Read across Oklahoma flyer

Read Across Oklahoma, the state’s premiere literary event for preschool and early grade children, returns on Tuesday, April 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with a free book giveaway at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden. The first 1,000 children with paid Zoo admission or ZOOfriends membership pass that day will receive a free book and are invited to participate in a variety of interactive learning stations and special performances.

Families and classrooms participating virtually can visit the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) at libraries.ok.gov/read to enjoy a special video of children’s author Dennis Mathew reading this year’s featured book, My Wild First Day of School. Online visitors will also be treated to musical performances, storytelling, and a variety of activities. The video also provides a look at the OKC Zoo and some of its animals and habitats.


Read Across Oklahoma is part of the statewide My First Library program coordinated by ODL, an early literacy initiative that helps develop literacy skills and promotes family reading. During a regular school year, the program distributes 1,900 books to early learning classrooms each month.

“Children who are exposed to books and have books to call their own at an early age develop better vocabularies and are better prepared for school,” Gelders said. “Getting books into the hands of young children is so important, and our partnership with the Zoo is another important avenue to help young children discover the wonderful world of books and reading.”

 “The Zoo is always excited to support Read Across Oklahoma,” said Candice Rennels, OKC Zoo’s director of public relations. “Seeing the animals at the zoo, taking home a book, and participating in activities that celebrate reading makes for a wonderful day of discovery for young children.”

My Wild First Day of School, by Mustang author Dennis Mathew, is a great feature book for this year’s event, Gelders said. “The animal characters in the story are excited about what they will accomplish during their first day of school. Characters identify different goals but they all want to do their best.”

The virtual side of the event provides opportunities for children and classrooms across Oklahoma to participate, Gelders said. “The online activities we provided during the pandemic proved to be very popular, and we wanted to continue this opportunity for young people to connect to the event no matter where they live in the state.”

Visit libraries.ok.gov/read to find the virtual activities. Families planning a visit to the Zoo can purchase their tickets in advance at www.okczoo.org/tickets. Families can also continue the reading adventure by visiting their local public library to find books and services for all ages.

Additional Read Across Oklahoma sponsors include Target, Tinker Federal Credit Union, Krueger Foundation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, Simply Country Ranch, Oklahoma Literacy Coalition, OKC Metro Literacy Coalition, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Teacher Prep Academy, Metro Technology Center, Metropolitan Library System, Junior League of Oklahoma City, Capitol Hill Graffix, and Pizza Hut.

For more information about Read Across Oklahoma, contact Katie.Bell@libraries.ok.gov or call 405-521-2034

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries is the official State Library of Oklahoma. It serves the information and records management needs of state government, assists with public library development, coordinates library and information technology projects for the state, and serves the general public through its specialized collections.

The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35. The Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry at 4:00 p.m.  Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Visit okczoo.org for more information.

Dennis Mathew is an elementary school speech pathologist, singer-songwriter, and author. Through his music and books, including Bello the Cello, My Wild First Day of School, and How Grizzly found Gratitude, Dennis has reached tens of thousands of students worldwide. Visit his website at booksbydennis.com.

THE ROLE OF LIBRARIES IN A POST-PANDEMIC ERA

About the Panel

Libraries continue to face unprecedented changes to operations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three library executive directors will discuss the state of libraries in a global context: Larry White, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma, US; Stephan Schwering, head of the Central Library in Dusseldorf, Germany; and Simon Smith, Libraries and Museum Manager in Reading, UK. The changing role of libraries, adaptations, new services, and future plans will be discussed in this interview-style virtual event.

In 2021, the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County and International English Library in Dusseldorf formalized a sister library relationship, partnering across the globe to strengthen cultural understanding and cross-promote events to their respective audiences.

About the Panelists

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Larry Nash White

Larry Nash White joined MLS August 26, 2019 as the Director of Strategic Planning and Projects and was promoted to the Deputy Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Services on January 24, 2020. Throughout his 25 years of library experience, he has developed an international reputation in organizational performance assessment and competitive information usage. He has 13 years of experience teaching library administration and various aspects of management at the University at Buffalo, SUNY and at East Carolina University. Larry served as Library Director for Washington County Public Library in Marietta, Ohio, and as Director of Library Operations in Bronson, Florida as well as in other public service positions. He has worked as a library consultant and was one of the winners of the 2007 Library Journal “Mover and Shaker” award. Larry has a BA in History from the University of Florida and from Florida State University he holds an MSLS in Library Science and a PhD in Library Administration.

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Simon Smith

Simon Smith is currently Reading Libraries and Museum Manager in Reading, UK. Having got his first professional librarian post there he then worked in a variety of library roles in Harrow and Slough before returning to Reading in 2016 as the service manager. Reading has 7 libraries as well as a home service and digital service, and is home to around 165,000 people. Reading is around 40 kms from London, is the home of text messaging, and a full size replica of the Bayeux Tapestry, as well as being internationally known for Oscar Wilde’s ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’.

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Stephan Schwering

Stephan Schwering has held managerial positions in medium-sized city libraries in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) since 1992. He has been head of the Central Library of the Duesseldorf Public Libraries since 2014 and has been largely responsible for the internal future process and the conception of the newly planned Central Library in KAP1, which opened in November 2021.

He considers social media in libraries to be a management task and is intensively involved with community building and analogue-digital library concepts. From 2008 to 2013, Schwering was on the board of the Association of Libraries in North Rhine-Westphalia and from 2008 to 2014 he was a member of the library advisory board of ekz.bibliotheksservice GmbH. He is the initiator of the “Night of the Libraries” in North Rhine-Westphalia, which takes place every two years (next in 2023), and is co-founder of the Twitter chat #BibChatDE, in which library topics in public digital spaces have been discussed since 2017. Schwering believes in libraries as THE “third places” for future societies.

Presented by the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County and the International English Library of Düsseldorf, Germany.

Thick Descriptions Announces the 6th Annual Boley s.t.e.A.m. Learning Journey

flyer for SteAm camp

Zora Neale Hurston, anthropologist and writer said, “those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it can’t hide it”. “Thick Descriptions is grateful that the Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma Literacy Coalition, and University of Oklahoma Sooner Flight Academy Aviation choose to help people ‘get it’ states Board Chair Monica Hardman.


Thick Descriptions will host our 6th Annual Boley s.t.e.A.m. (science, technology, engineering, Anthropology, and math) Learning Journey Wednesday, August 4 – Friday, August 6, 2021, at the Boley Town Hall, 11 W 3rd Street, Boley, Oklahoma. This year’s theme is aviation.

Click on the QR code below for more information.

Thick Descriptions
Thick Descriptions is committed to education (science empowerment and cultural intelligence) for every Oklahoman. This is executed through several initiatives specifically s.t.e.A.m. (science, technology, engineering, Anthropology, and math) Learning Journeys to historically overlooked youth during school breaks to bridge the learning gap; EITRU (Elephant in the Room – Unboxed), a monthly conversation providing tools and resources to address those “elephant in the room” topics and, OKEE (Oklahoma Educators Evolved), culturally-driven professional development for teachers.

USCIS to Celebrate Independence Day with Naturalization Ceremonies Across the Country

images of citizenship

WASHINGTON— U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will celebrate Independence Day this year by welcoming more than 9,400 new citizens in 170 naturalization ceremonies between June 30 and July 7. These ceremonies demonstrate our commitment to welcoming immigrants. USCIS is proud to welcome people from all over the world as our newest U.S. citizens during this celebration of Independence Day. 

“This year marks the 245th birthday of our Nation,” said Acting USCIS Director Tracy Renaud. “We are committed to promoting policies and procedures that ensure we operate fairly and efficiently, and continue to encourage and embrace the full participation of the newest Americans in our democracy.”  

Each July 4, we celebrate the day the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, declaring that the 13 American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation—the United States of America—and were no longer part of the British Empire. USCIS commemorates this momentous occasion by hosting special Independence Day-themed naturalization ceremonies across the country.  

This year’s Independence Day activities will include two special ceremonies. This includes a naturalization ceremony with President Biden at the White House on July 2 and a ceremony with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas administering the Oath of Allegiance virtually to 22 military service members serving overseas, which took place on June 30. Additional ceremonies marking this year’s Independence Day include a ceremony with Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John Tien at the USCIS Atlanta office, ceremonies aboard the USS Constitution Museum in Boston with Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday and the Battleship USS Iowa in Los Angeles, and a special ceremony at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Throughout all these ceremonies, USCIS will honor and recognize the commitment and contributions immigrants make to our Nation, including military members, front-line workers, and COVID-19 heroes who have played a critical role in helping our country respond to and recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic. View a list of highlighted 2021 Independence Day-themed ceremonies.  

USCIS reaffirms its commitment to making the naturalization process accessible to all who are eligible. Since the beginning of the Biden-Harris administration, we have taken a number of steps to support implementation of Executive Order 14012: Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration System and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, including the reinstatement of the 2008 civics test, which took place in February. Reverting to the 2008 civics test was in keeping with other updates with the same purpose.  

Following each naturalization ceremony, we encourage new U.S. citizens to share their naturalization stories and photos on social media using the hashtag #newUScitizen. 

For more information on USCIS and its programs, please visit uscis.gov or follow us on TwitterInstagramYouTubeFacebook, and LinkedIn

Read Across Oklahoma 2021

Read Across Oklahoma Returns with a Free Book Giveaway and Online Entertainment and Activities

Read Across Oklahoma, the state’s premiere literary event for preschool and early grade children, returns on Tuesday, April 13 at 9:00 a.m. with a free book giveaway and virtual activities. The first 1,500 children who visit the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden on that day will receive a free book.

Following their Zoo visit, participants can visit the Oklahoma Department of Libraries (ODL) website at libraries.ok.gov/read to enjoy a special video of author Tammi Sauer reading the event’s featured book, Wordy Birdy, performances by popular children’s musical group Spaghetti Eddie, additional storytelling, and more. The video also provides a virtual look at the OKC Zoo and some of its animals and habitats.

Read Across Oklahoma is part of the statewide My First Library program coordinated by ODL, an early literacy initiative that helps develop literacy skills and promotes family reading. During a regular school year, the program distributes 1,900 books to early learning classrooms in the Oklahoma City metro area.

“Children who are exposed to books and have books to call their own at an early age develop better vocabularies and are better prepared for school,” according to Leslie Gelders, ODL Literacy Coordinator. “Getting books into the hands of young children is so important, so we were excited to partner with the Zoo to give more books away.”

“The Zoo is thrilled to be part of this year’s virtual Read Across Oklahoma celebration and host a book giveaway, providing guests with new books for their young readers to take home,” said Candice Rennels, OKC Zoo’s director of public relations.

Wordy Birdy, by award-winning Edmond author Tammi Sauer, is an ideal feature book for the event, Gelders said. “Since the character Wordy Birdy is always talking, it’s filled with new vocabulary words. It also imparts a lesson about the importance of listening.”

The virtual side of the event will provide opportunities for children throughout the state to participate, Gelders said. “The video is available directly from ODL’s website, and we also have a variety of exercises including a maze, a coloring page, and learning activities and games related to Wordy Birdy.”

Visit libraries.ok.gov/read to find the virtual activities. Families planning a visit to the Zoo should make their reservations at www.okczoo.org/tickets.

Additional Read Across Oklahoma sponsors include the Krueger Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Pizza Hut, Target, Oklahoma City Public Schools, Teacher Prep Academy, Red Wolves, Metro Technology Center, Feed the Children, and Junior League of Oklahoma City.

For more information about Read Across Oklahoma, contact leslie.gelders@libraries.ok.gov or call 405-522-3242.

Where Do We Go from Here: Race & Literacy in Oklahoma, Part 2

We had a wonderful and enlightening discussion in July. We discussed events in the past and what we can do to move forward. Due to the overwhelming amount of awareness, our next discussion is a continuation of the July conversation. In August, we will continue the discussion of “Where Do We Go from Here: Race and Literacy in Oklahoma, Part 2” on Wednesday, August 19 at 10:00 am-noon. If you weren’t able to join us in July, you are still welcome to join us in August.

Our conversation will be led by Suzette Chang. She will help us to untangle our thoughts and provide tools and recourse as we discuss, “Where do we go from here?”

Registration is closed.

Suzette Chang is the founder and CEO of Thick Descriptions (TD). Thick Descriptions’ mission is to provide awareness, tools, resources, and context of science (natural and social) for kids, tweens/teens, and adults. For more information, please visit their website.


Where Do We Go from Here: Race and Literacy in Oklahoma

2020 will go down in history as a year in which the world was turned upside down. We have been quarantined, told we don’t need a mask, told that we do need a mask, and told to avoid crowds. Businesses have closed, some temporarily and some permanently. People have been laid off or told to work from home. And all the while, racism has been bubbling to the surface.

Join us Wednesday, July 22, at 10:30 am-11:30 am to start breaking down the issues that are surfacing. We will meet in a safe environment to allow for brave questions to be asked. “What makes someone racist?” “What exactly is white privilege?” “Am I guilty?” “I’m just one person, what can I do to help?” “Is that racist or politically correct?” “How does race affect literacy?” “How does cultural intelligence impact how teachers engage with different racial groups?” “Do racial groups do better being taught by the same ethnicities and races?”

Our conversation will be led by Suzette Chang. She will help us to untangle our thoughts and provide tools and recourse as we discuss, “Where do we go from here?”

2020 OLC-TFCU Partnership Grant

This year the grant was for $2,000. The following organizations met all of the qualifications and submitted winning applications. Congratulations!

Bartlesville Public Library Literacy Services
Community Literacy Centers, Inc
Duncan Area Literacy Council
Friends of the Guthrie Public Library
Great Plains Literacy Council
Immigration Center at Western Oaks Church of the Nazarene
NWBC Language Learning Fellowship
OIC of OK County
Oklahoma Christian University: We Speak
Oklahoma City Community College Adult Literacy Center
Rogers County Literacy Council
Stillwater Literacy Council

In these uncertain times, this grant is even more meaningful to these organizations! Thank you, Tinker Federal Credit Union!