John Jorgensen, of Casper, founder of the Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation and Wyoming Reads program, is the recipient of the 2020 Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award by the University of Wyoming Literacy Research Center and Clinic’s (LRCC) Outreach Advisory Board.
Jorgensen has demonstrated a passion for promoting literacy not only in Natrona County, but also across Wyoming and outside the state. He first established the Sue Jorgensen Library Foundation in 1996, in honor of his late wife, to commemorate her commitment to literacy and books.
His work expanded statewide in 2006 with Wyoming Reads. Each year, the program gives the state’s first graders the opportunity to choose one of six hardcover books free to take home. Nearly 7,500 Wyoming first graders received a book in 2019, and the program has grown to include other states, including Oregon and Minnesota.
LRCC Outreach Advisory Board Co-Chair Judy Catchpole and Sen. Jeff Wasserburger will present the award to Jorgensen May 18. Jorgensen will receive a plaque and $4,000 to continue his efforts to improve literacy across the state. He was nominated for the award by the executive director of the Natrona County Library, Lisa Scroggins.
“The Wyoming Reads program ensures that every student in Wyoming has access to books that can be read to them or that they can read themselves,” says LRCC Executive Director Dana Robertson. “This exposure is fundamental to students having a hopeful and positive spiral of experiences with literacy that leads them to more reading, greater academic achievement and personal fulfillment in their lives.”
Runner-up for the award was Friends of Washakie County Library, which will receive a certificate and $3,000 to support the construction of a new library in the county. The award will be presented to the Friends of Washakie County Library Board later this spring. Board secretary Laura McDonald nominated the group.
Friends of Washakie County Library has supported literacy by sponsoring the annual Read Across America celebration in its libraries, by providing free reading materials at locations, such as community centers and Little Free Libraries installed in local parks, and also by providing nearly $20,000 the last decade to support literacy projects and scholarships in small communities.
The Carol Mead Leaders in Literacy Award is a way to recognize and honor Wyoming citizens, organizations, businesses or communities that have made substantial contributions that enhance the literacy development among the Wyoming community. Formerly known as the First Lady’s Leaders in Literacy Award, the honor was established in 2016 by the LRCC Outreach Advisory Board to recognize the work of Wyoming’s former first lady, Carol Mead, to promote literacy education throughout the state. The award, in 2019, was renamed to honor the legacy of the former first lady and her impact on the literacy and education of students in Wyoming.