story by Dana Cooper | photos by Addie James


Reading fluently is a skill many of us take for granted. Adults who read below a sixth-grade level are at a particular disadvantage in life, according to statistics published by The website states that more than 43 percent of adults with extremely low literacy levels live in poverty, and children whose parents struggle with literacy are overwhelmingly unlikely to end that cycle. Through funds raised by events such as Literatini, which was hosted this past Saturday evening at Novel., Literacy Mid-South is able to improve outcomes for these men and women and their families for generations to come.

Knox Shelton, Literacy Mid-South’s executive director, explained that the popular event is back after a one-year hiatus to await the completion of Novel. inside the old Booksellers at Laurelwood, which is the event’s usual home. This is Literatini’s seventh year, he said.

The name Literatini is a portmanteau of the words literacy and martini. In support of the theme, several of Memphis’ hottest bars and restaurants were on hand to serve up literary-themed libations among the aisles of books. Attendees circulated through the store, sampling delicious adult beverages and casting votes for their favorites. Some of the notable drinks we found were Tess d’HERBervilles, a refreshing gin-based drink courtesy of Literacy Mid-South, and Loflin Yard’s For The Little Mouse, a strawberry-vanilla vodka cocktail that received my vote – in exchange for a full-sized version – immediately upon tasting it.

Also joining in the fun this year were Slider Inn, RP Tracks, Silly Goose, Pontotoc Lounge, Kooky Canuck, and Memphis Bar Ties, with each bar or restaurant’s table featuring drink samples and the occasional tasty treat. Novel’s in-store restaurant, Libro, was a popular stop throughout the evening.

The event featured a silent auction, with prizes ranging from a pair of tickets to watch University of Memphis football and women’s basketball games, to spa packages and overnight hotel stays. Attendees also had the opportunity to go on a “Blind Date with a Book,” where a $10 donation to Literacy Mid-South was rewarded with the chance to choose a giftwrapped book from a nearby table; surprise titles are always fun!

Novel. remained open throughout the evening, and 20 percent of all sales during the event went directly to Literacy Mid-South.

If you missed this year’s Literatini, Shelton says there are plenty of other opportunities to support Literacy Mid-South all year long, either through donations or by volunteering. For more information about Literacy Mid-South’s mission, tutoring programs and how you can get involved, please visit






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