Jamila Wicks serves as executive director at Books From Birth. Founded in 2005 by then-county Mayor AC Wharton, the organization is now the largest affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, distributing more than 42,000 books each month to children from birth to age 5 in Shelby County – at no cost to the family. “Our mission is to promote kindergarten readiness and strengthen family bonds with children in Shelby County” says Jamila. And Books From Birth’s efforts have been paying off; a study done by the Urban Child Institute shows that participants in the program are demonstrating stronger reading skills through third grade, four years after leaving the program.
Jamila joined Books from Birth in July 2014 as community development manager, moving into the associate director position in April of this year and then to the top job in July. Prior to her work here in Memphis, Jamila was at the Points of Light Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, and also served as a consultant with Draper & Associates there. She holds a Masters of Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism/Public Relations from the University of Georgia. Aside from leading Books From Birth, Jamila also heads a Girl Scouts troop, furthering all the work she does for the children in our community. She and her husband, Jason, have a daughter and son and live in Memphis. We at StyleBlueprint are so pleased to introduce you to Jamila Wicks, today’s FACE of Memphis.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
My favorite thing about my job and career is knowing my work, every day, has a direct and positive impact on the lives of others — especially children and families.
What’s a typical day like for you?
My typical day is spent outside the office in the Shelby County community working directly with organizations, government officials and individuals to secure funding to provide books directly to children and families in their homes. Also, I speak directly with parents and caregivers daily to enroll their children in the Imagination Library and promote early literacy.
What are your favorite books?
I read all the time and, while I don’t have a favorite, I am currently reading and enjoying The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.
Regarding children’s books, I grew up during the era of “Reading Rainbow.” Thus, my favorite children’s book is Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. I have such fond memories of this book being read aloud during school, at home and via “Reading Rainbow.” It’s also one of the first books I personally purchased for my daughter’s home library when she was born.
I also like the children’s book Stellaluna. My favorite children’s book in the current Imagination Library collection is Last Stop on Market Street, and my son and I still enjoy reading Anna Dewdney’s llama llama books together.
What do you like best about being a Girl Scouts troop leader?
Introducing the girls of my troop to new things and new experiences is what I love about troop leading. It goes beyond earning badges — what kind of new experiences out there can I introduce them to? From travels to learning about career opportunities, it’s great to show them things that they may not be exposed to in their immediate community.
Were you a Girl Scout as a child?
I was. I started as a Brownie and continued to be active through high school and even college.
What was the most important thing you learned from being a Scout?
The friendship and camaraderie, and the experiences that I was able to have that you don’t get in school — especially all the outdoors experience.
Any guilty pleasures?
Coca-Cola. I know it’s bad for you but I’ve got to have my one Coke a day!
Where is the first place you take an out-of-towner when they visit Memphis?
I have fallen in love with the National Civil Rights Museum. It is such a jewel for this city. I feel it is one of the spots that everyone needs to visit. It can be depressing but it is such a well-done museum and there is nothing else like it.
So when you’re done at the Civil Rights Museum, where do you grab a bite?
I love Soul Fish Café and my all-time favorite restaurant in Memphis is Bounty on Broad. I really, really love good food, good quality food — and Memphis is full of it. We recently loved that new place in Crosstown, Mardi Gras.
What are your hobbies and how do you unwind?
My most recent hobby is exercising but when it comes to my free time, most of it is spent giving back and that’s where the Girl Scouts come in. I am about to start my fifth year leading Girl Scouts troops.
What one word describes you?
What inspires you?
People inspire me. One of my best experiences was while working for Points of Light in Atlanta, which is the world’s largest organization devoted to volunteer service. I managed the Daily Point of Light Award, which meant I got to interview people who are working to change the world, to tell their stories and to understand the amazing things they’re accomplishing. It was a great reminder that anyone can do anything.
What is your best piece of advice for others?
Take risks. Determine what is the worst that could happen — as long as nobody is going to die — go for it! If you fail, you fail. Get up and learn from your mistakes.
What are three things you cannot live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Travel, Netflix and popcorn.
Thanks to Micki Martin for the wonderful photos of Jamila!
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