Bartow Literacy Council receives state grant to fund reading projects
29 January 2018 Written by Donna Harris, Published in News, Cartersville Daily-Tribune
It may be called a “mini-grant,” but it will go a long way in improving literacy
in Bartow County.
The Bartow Literacy Council received an $18,400 grant from the Early Language and literacy Mini-Grant Program that it will use to implement three literacy projects through its Bartow County Reading Outreach Program over the next two years.
On Jan. 22, Gov. Nathan Deal announced grant awards to 48 projects as part of the mini-grant program, a collaborative effort between the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy at Georgia College that was launched last August.
“The Early Language and Literacy Mini-Grant Program recognizes those leading the way in developing new, engaging programs to advance language and literacy skills for Georgia students,” Deal said in a press release. “These grants will provide communities with additional resources to put more students on track to read on grade-level by the third grade. The bright minds of Georgia’s students are the state’s most precious resource, and I commend the educators and community partners working to prepare them for future success.”
Bartow Literacy Council Chairwoman Valerie Gilreath said she was “excited” to receive the grant, which will help improve access to books for children ages 0-8 by funding a “Welcome to the World” book program that will give a children’s book to every mother who gives birth at Cartersville Medical Center in 2018 and 2019 as well as a summer reading program through the bookmobile and Little Libraries all across the county. “These funds will go a long way toward helping the Bartow Literacy Council achieve its goals for 2018 and 2019,” she said.
The overall goal of the council is to increase the number of Bartow County students who achieve reading proficiency by the end of third grade, Gilreath said. “Currently, only 34 percent of Bartow’s children meet this threshold,” she said. “We are working in conjunction with the local school systems to develop activities that support the work being done in the classroom. We hope to increase awareness among Bartow County families about the importance of reading early and often in the home, even before a child starts school.”
The Little Libraries will help the council achieve two of its priorities for 2018: increasing access to books, especially in the summer, and community engagement.
“During the school year, kids have access to their school library,” Gilreath said. “This is not usually the case during the summer. Our hope is that we can combat summer reading regression, also known as the ‘summer slide,’ by making books accessible even when school is out and encouraging children to continue reading throughout the summer.”
Between the grant and “some generous community partners,” the council is hoping to construct 25 to 30 Little Libraries that will be placed outside each elementary school in the county as well as other strategic locations, Gilreath said. “We are still in conversation about exactly where, but we’ll be looking at outdoor spaces where people congregate that are open to the public yearround,” she said, noting a number of them will be operational before the end of the school year. “We’ll work hard to see that they are dispersed throughout the county and municipalities.”
These “tiny libraries,” created in the “spirit of the Little Free Library movement,” will be freestanding, newspaper-box size structures with a rotating inventory of 25 to 50 books, Gilreath said.
“Families will just help themselves to books as they need,” she said. “It will be ‘take a book, leave a book,’ but it’s not a 1-to-1 ratio. You can take a book even if you don’t leave a book and vice versa. And families are invited to take as many books as they like as often as they like.” If any of the families would like to donate books to the library, “that will be welcome,” Gilreath said. “Because the libraries operate on the premise of ‘take a book, leave a book,’ children can contribute to the content of the libraries,” she said. “They can donate their books when they are finished with them and share their favorite
stories with others.”
The libraries will be stocked with books that are appropriate for ages 0-8, Gilreath said, but “each library will grow and change in accordance with the neighborhood around it.”
“As books change hands, books for older children and adults could be featured in the library,” she said. “If a company, group or organization sponsors a library, they will be able to add content for other age groups. It’s intended to be an organic process. However, the literacy council, in partnership with the bookmobile, will continually monitor each library to ensure that it remains stocked with books for the 0-8 age range because that
is our priority.”
Each project that is awarded a grant is a joint effort between at least two community-based partners that focuses on one of the four pillars of the Get Georgia Reading Campaign — language nutrition, access, positive learning climate and teacher preparation and effectiveness — and individual partners receive between $5,000 and $20,000 to support their roles, according to the governor’s office press release. The community partnerships include child care centers, public and private pre-K programs, primary grades of elementary schools, local service agencies and local nonprofit organizations.
Gilreath said the council wants to involve as many people as possible in the Little Libraries project and will be reaching out to school groups, Beta clubs, civic groups, Scout troops and other organizations “for input and volunteers.” Anyone who wants to help should email the council at firstname.lastname@example.org.