Maria DeVivo was the guest speaker and introduced her new book at Durant High School.

By Gwen Rollings

“Read to SUCCEED! Reach for the Stars! Believe in yourself!” proclaimed Karen Morrissey, reading coach and reading department head at Durant High School in Plant City. The Hillsborough County Reading Teacher of the Year (2017-2018) pulled out all the stops for Durant students and teachers in Celebrate Literacy Week Florida, held throughout Florida during January 27-31.

Her goal was to create a fun-filled week to get students and teachers involved in celebrating literacy. A Hillsborough County Public Library prepared a Literacy in the Courtyard event where hundreds of books were available to browse and take home to keep. Library representatives shared all the services public libraries have to offer students. The Durant Brew Crew served up iced coffee.

The week was jam packed with something different every day, including a meet and greet/book signing with a local author, prizes for teachers in the Door Decorating Contest, select classes read with Rosie the Therapy Dog, Get Caught Reading tickets toward a drawing were given for getting caught reading out loud anywhere and other gift card incentives emphasizing that reading and writing are rewarding.

Was all this coordinated effort worth it? According to Florida State University College of Education, “Reading skills predict success later in life, whether that involves getting into college or having a successful career.”

Maria DeVivo, the meet and greet author, is a language arts and journalism teacher at Randall Middle School with a successful 20-year teaching career.

She said, “I’ve always been a writer. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this giant imagination that couldn’t be tamed or contained. When I was in the seventh grade and read The Outsiders for the first time, that’s when it clicked, and I got it in my head that I wanted to write and publish one day.”

She has written three books in The Coal Elf Chronicles and most recently released The Altered. Visit for more information about DeVivo and her books.

Morrissey, who has taught at elementary, middle and high school levels, shared, “My passion is to have all ages connect to literacy in a personal way that resonates with them and changes them to be more curious and inquisitive about the world around them and connect with others. I want high school students to also recognize that literacy is a gift, a gift we have all of our lives and a gift to share with others.”

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