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Tennessee Department of Education starts Literacy Awareness Campaign: Starting with Sounds

Tennessee Department of EducationNashville, TN – Today, Monday, September 27th, 2021. the Tennessee Department of Education, in collaboration with Tennessee PBS, has launched Starting with Sounds, a Reading 360 statewide awareness campaign to help Tennessee parents and students understand the importance of reading in an engaging and fun way.

In collaboration with Tennessee PBS, the state’s six PBS stations- WCTE, WETP, WKNO, WKOP, WLJT, WNPT, WTCI- covering east to west and north to south, the department created Starting with Sounds to highlight the importance of early literacy and how families and students can practice reading by watching and listening to national and local musicians, athletes, and champions of student success read their favorite books and sing songs to help build these critical skills.

“Strong reading skills early in life and especially the ability to read proficiently by third grade are important predictors of student success,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “Thanks to our friends at Tennessee’s six PBS stations, and the generosity of celebrities who share our love of learning and reading– the department’s Starting with Sounds programming will broadcast statewide to help children engage in reading and develop strong phonics skills—learning how to hear and make sounds, how to associate sounds with letters, and how to combine sounds into words. Tennessee continues to prioritize education for our students and we are thrilled to provide more fun resources to help our little ones learn how to read.”

A list of the participating musicians, athletes, notable Tennesseans, and national champions of youth achievement with links to their recorded videos is as follows:

  • Jason Crabb:Grammy award-winning singer and musician reads children’s book “Most Days” and sings “What a Wonderful World” 
  • Ellie Holcomb:Singer-songwriter reads children’s book “My Father’s Dragon” and sings “Family” 
  • Kathy Mattea:Grammy award-winning country music and bluegrass singer reads “The Wind in the Willows” and sings “One Light, One Sun” 
  • Ketch Secor:Grammy award-winning singer and founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show reads “Lorraine” 
  • Scott Hamilton:Olympic gold medalist reads “Fritzy Finds a Hat” 
  • Jake Hoot:NBC’s “The Voice” winner and country music singer reads “Bloom” and sings “Best Job I Ever Had” 
  • Carl Ray:Country music singer reads and sings “Tiger in my Soup” 
  • Kelly Lang:Award-winning singer/songwriter reads “Most People” 
  • Rissi Palmer:Country music singer reads “Magnificent Homespun Brown” and sings “Best Day Ever” 
  • Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley:Nationally known musicians read “Farmer Falgu Goes on a Trip” and sing “No More Hard Times Blues” 
  • More to come!

Starting November 1st, Starting with Sounds will air on Tennessee PBS during the department’s regularly scheduled time block from 9:00am-11:00am CT. Additional Starting with Sounds videos will be added soon, including videos featuring celebrities like country music singer Tenille Townes and country music singer and songwriter Niko Moon. Local and national musicians, athletes, and other champions for student success are invited and encouraged to participate. Click here to learn more.


“Tennessee PBS is committed to delivering impactful educational programming every day via broadcast and online to Tennessee students across the state,” said Becky Magura, President and CEO, Nashville Public Television. “We know early literacy achievement is essential for student success, and the Starting with Sounds campaign is an excellent opportunity within the state’s Reading 360 literacy initiative for students and families to spend time together focusing on the importance of sounds-based reading.”

District leaders and community partners commented on the importance of early literacy and the impact Starting with Sounds will have across the state.

“In the YMCA programs, we see firsthand how reading at an early age can open the doors to imagination and provide a foundation for a love of learning that students will carry with them throughout their education and life,” said Brian McLaughlin, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, YMCA of Memphis & the Mid-South. “We are looking forward to being able to share the Starting with Sounds videos and encourage our little ones to discover their potential through reading!”

“The most important task we have as educators is teaching our youngest students how to read,” said Scott Langford, Chief Academic Officer, Sumner County Schools. “That task begins with sounds first instruction. It is essential that we begin there and build the strongest of foundations.”

“Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) is proud to support the Starting with Sounds initiative to raise awareness of the importance of reading and our mission to strengthen early literacy statewide,” said James Pond, president of GELF. “Reading goes beyond the pages of a book, and Tennessee Literacy Month is the perfect time for us to come together as Tennesseans to support our youngest learners. It’s more than books. It’s the future of Tennessee.”


Starting with Sounds is a component of Reading 360, a comprehensive statewide literacy initiative to provide optional grants and resources to help more Tennessee students develop strong phonics-based reading skills by supporting districts, teachers, and families. Components of the Reading 360 initiative are funded with federal COVID-19 relief and stimulus funding. To access additional resources on Reading 360, click here.

For Tennessee Department of Education media inquiries, contact .

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