Weir Elementary School (WES) students heard inspiring advice from Mississippi’s First Lady Elee Reeves during the school’s annual awards day program on Monday. She shared details about the new children’s activity book she authored called “Mississippi’s Fred the Turtle” and presented each of the 135 enrolled students with their own complimentary copies.
“One of the goals of the book is to teach kids to be confident, brave, and kind, while encouraging them as young readers to engage in thought-provoking conversations to self-reflect and develop lifelong skills like coping with fear, developing self-confidence, and setting goals,” Reeves said.
While visiting WES, Reeves described the book as a motivational resource tool that can make a positive difference in lives. She highlighted the book’s primary characters—the turtle named Fred, based on her own imaginary childhood friend, and the fisherman inspired by her father Jimmy Williams.
As the book’s adventure unfolds, she said, students take part in various activities, including coloring, a word search puzzle, a maze, and connect the dots as they help the turtle travel across Mississippi. Each book is accompanied by an 8-pack of crayons.
Reeves also fielded questions from the audience and acknowledged the contributions of the book’s illustrator, Choctaw County native Ashley Denson, an art student of junior standing at Mississippi State University and the daughter of WES Principal Robbie Denson.
“Ashley was suggested to me for the illustrations, and I think she did a splendid job. We are happy to present the activity book to WES students at the request of Principal Denson since Ashley volunteers at the school,” Reeves said.
Beyond gratefully receiving the books on behalf of her students, Principal Denson is proud her daughter was part of the endeavor.
“I believe Ashley is incredibly talented, and I am grateful for the confidence First Lady Elee Reeves placed in her through this wonderful educational project,” said Denson. “I am thankful WES students can benefit from Ashley’s illustration efforts and these great activity books.”
WES became the sixth school to receive the books since distribution began in April. Elementary schools in five districts were earlier identified by the Mississippi Department of Education for the initial distribution. The books were possible because of a grant program offered by the Casey Foundation that supports First Ladies across the nation on various initiatives.
Reeves plans to release the book in elementary schools statewide once additional funding for printing and distribution is in place. She hopes persons in various areas of the state will consider financially supporting the activity book initiative at a level comfortable for them.
As First Lady, Reeves has enjoyed reading in schools and promoting the importance of literacy for students of all ages during her husband Gov. Tate Reeves’ (R) tenure as the 65th leader of Mississippi. Her latest venture has been the activity book initiative.
“My family, especially my daughters, assisted me with ideas for the book as we traveled around the state in our daily activities,” she said. “It has been a rewarding project for all of us.”
In addition to her duties as Mississippi’s First Lady, Reeves works as an investment adviser with Coker & Palmer. She and her husband have been married since 2001 and are the parents of three daughters, Tyler, Emma and Maddie.
Editor’s Note: Readers can learn more about Choctaw native Ashley Denson and her love of art in next week’s edition.