Fostering early literacy in TN for a brighter future

Published 3:20 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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(TNS) To help combat learning loss and strengthen early literacy in Tennessee, the Gov.’s Early Literacy Foundation is spearheading efforts to promote literacy among children to ensure they develop strong reading skills throughout the summer.
In May, 60% of Tennessee third graders fail short of proficiency on the TCAP reading test, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.
James Pond, president of the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation, said it recognizes the critical role early literacy plays in a child’s overall academic success, and it is committed to ensuring all children in Tennessee have access to the resources they need to become lifelong learners.
“Our organization provides a K-3 home library program and which every rising first, second and third grader and soon to be kindergartner receive a summer book packet of three fiction, three nonfiction books, along with great resources for that child and their caregivers to engage with those books and create comprehension and learning,” Pond outlined.
Pond added the books included in packets are selected by their Educator Advisory Council, made up of 28 educators from across the state. The Educator Advisory Council also creates the resources and activity sheets provided along with the books. He noted throughout the summer it will deliver 1.2 million books to more than 200,000 students, teachers and librarians statewide.
Pond pointed out for 20 years, it has managed Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library for the state, which gives books free of charge to children from birth to age five until they reach kindergarten age. He added they are also providing books and resources to children in rural underserved communities.
“We’re actually looking at some of our higher-needs populations,” Pond explained. “We will be working with the Latino community across the state. We’re going to be launching a pilot project to really look at what are the additional supports that some of our higher-needs groups’ needs are, and then meeting those needs as much as we possibly can.”
Pond emphasized his organization developed the Statewide Early Literacy Education Collaborative of Tennessee, or SELECT, which brings together all of their statewide partners to work on collaboration around literacy. He added they also collaborate with the Tennessee Department of Education for the Decodables initiative, which provides at-home reading resources for free to families of kindergarten to second grade students.

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