County schools receives grant to launch Literacy Bus

Published 6:40 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Every child deserves the chance to succeed.

That is the philosophy behind a new initiative of the Carter County School System which will serve to bring literacy programs into the community to reach the children where they live.

Soon, the school system will be launching their Literacy Bus program. While it will start small, school system officials hope the program will garner enough support to expand quickly to meet the needs of children in the community.

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The Governor’s Books From Birth Foundation has already shown their support for the Literacy Bus program through a $6,000 grant to help the school system get the program off the ground.

The original idea in applying for the grant was to create a Lunch & Literacy Bus to offer programs during the Lunch & Literacy summer food program, according to Mike Miller, elementary supervisor for the school system.

This past summer the school system launched the Lunch & Literacy program to help feed children during the summer and to make sure they had access to on-level reading materials. The program was very successful, so the school system began to look at ways to expand the program.

School system officials — including Miller, Director of Schools Dr. Kevin Ward, and Board of Education member LaDonna Stout Boone — had previously visited the Avery County, North Carolina, school system and checked out their Literacy Bus program. Since that visit, the school system began to look for ways to create a similar program in Carter County.

Initially, the bus will work with the Lunch and Literacy program to provide books and activities for children, but eventually, the Literacy Bus will transform into a mobile Pre-K program.

“Our goal is to hire a Pre-K teacher to put on this bus and make it a Pre-K classroom on wheels,” Miller said.

The Transportation Department for the school system has donated a bus for the program, Ward said, and the school’s Career Technical Education programs will design and work on the retrofitting of the bus to make it into a mobile classroom.

Over the past few years, the school system has worked on a literacy initiative to have every student reading at or above grade level by the time they enter the third grade. The Literacy Bus will help on getting children prepared and ready for school before they enter Kindergarten.

“The goal is to close the achievement gap between those students who have had a high-quality pre-school experience and those who have not,” Boone said. “It is easier to get them prepared than it is to get them intervention when they are not prepared.”

“We know if that achievement gap is not closed by the 3rd grade, there is only a slim chant that it will be closed,” Boone added.

Many of the county’s rural areas do not have access to Pre-K programs except for Head Start, which can only serve a small number of qualifying students.

“If we have this, we can guarantee that at least they have access to a high-quality program,” Boone said. “It is very developmentally appropriate as well as academically preparatory.”