BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — An after-school reading initiative at Oxmoor Valley Elementary School in Birmingham has partnered with Project 1 Voice to connect students with actors on Broadway.
The reading program is called Terrific Tuesdays Reading Time with the Jaquars. “Initially it was just the teachers reading”, said Lakeshia Moody, the Reading Specialist at Oxmoor Valley Elementary. Then the librarian, Tamara Ishman reached out to a friend on Broadway. “I asked him to read and with one invitation he said let me get you some people who can read, let me be the last one.”
That friend was Erich McMillan-McCall. He has an extensive resume on Broadway that includes plays such as Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Jelly’s Last Jam and many others. But before he made it to Broadway, the Birmingham native peformed in Town and Gown, which is now known as Red Mountain Theatre. “I grew up Elyton Village projects in Birmingham, I went to Ramsay High School and I attended Birmingham Southern College before I moved to New York City in 1988 but that’s all a part of my journey, reading was a huge part of what made me who I am.”
We got to speak with a fourth-grader at Oxmoor Valley Elementary who participates in the reading program. Her name is Aria. “I really love that reading can help you with your vocabulary and really because reading is really a fun activity and personally, I love reading books.”
Aria’s mother says the reading program has unlocked her daughter’s dreams. “It’s giving them the opportunity to really just reading from the books into their everyday life and I love it because they are going to need these skills as they progress in life.”
Aria says she now wants to be an actress when she grows up. “I love to act, I love to be in plays, I love to be in front of people and present.” McCall says that’s why he has actors from seven Broadway plays reading to the Birmingham students. He wants them to see people who look like them achieving at high levels.