Southern Pines Named All-America City for Reading Campaign
Southern Pines has been named an All-America City for a comprehensive campaign to improve reading developed by a broad coalition of business, government and civic leaders.
The town was among 14 winners of the prestigious award, sponsored by the National Civic League, presented Monday during the Grade-Level Reading Communities Network Conference and All-America City Award celebration in Denver.
The awards were presented to communities that have developed the most comprehensive, realistic and sustainable plans to increase grade-level reading proficiency by the end of third grade.
The town was nominated for its Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Community Network, a collective strategy designed to engage the community in the learning process. Called Southern Pines Grows Great Readers, the campaign dovetails with the schools’ slogan, “Growing to Greatness.”
“Of course we’re delighted that the National Civic League has recognized the plan developed by our team in designating Southern Pines an All-America City,” said Southern Pines Library Director Lynn Thompson, who was in Denver for the presentation. “But the importance of our proposal in support of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading goes far beyond this one award.
“The real winners will be all the children in our schools who will benefit from the combined efforts of all the partners who developed our plan and will be implementing it in the months and years to come.”
Thompson and her husband, Bob Howell; Caroline Eddy, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club; and PineStraw’s Cos Barnes represented Southern Pines at the conference and went up to accept the award.
Southern Pines Mayor David McNeill said it was “fantastic” that the town won such a prestigious designation.
“I think the award recognizes what a great community this is to live in,” McNeill said. “I congratulate everyone who has worked so hard on this project, but the kids are the real winners. The efforts that they will put forth to improve their reading skills will benefit them for a lifetime.”
Town Manager Reagan Parsons said the town and its partners in the third-grade reading project are “very honored” to receive the award.
“This recognition is representative of the thought and effort put into our initial discussions and planning, and offers additional reason for optimism regarding the potential for positive outcomes and significant impact on our local youth,” he said. “This award is truly deserved by the community as a whole.”
The other winners were: Baltimore; Dubuque, Iowa; Providence, R.I.; Louisville, Ky.; Marshalltown, Iowa; Pittsfield, Mass.; Quad Cities, Iowa and Ill.; Roanoke, Va.; San Antonio; San Francisco; Seattle and the South King County Cities, Wash.; Springfield, Mass.; and Tahoe/Truckee, Calif.
“The National League of Cities congratulates the winners of the 2012 All-America City Awards for their outstanding community plans,” said Donald J. Borut, NLC’s executive director. “These communities will be among the leaders as Americans from all walks of life rally around the goal of ensuring that every child reads proficiently by the end of third grade.”
The National Civic League, which sponsors the annual award competition, usually asks entrants to provide three community improvement projects. For this year, the National Civic League joined with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to emphasize education.
More than 100 cities submitted plans to solve reading problems, and that was whittled to 32 finalists. Southern Pines was the only finalist from North Carolina.
The local campaign strategy calls for attacking on three fronts: school readiness, attendance, and summer learning loss. This program is designed to ensure students arrive in kindergarten ready to learn, attend school regularly, and keep learning through summer months.
Addressing the reading problems in schools has been a long process. After collecting data, the Growing Great Readers committee realized that Southern Pines is above the national average for third grade reading but falls behind in subsequent grades.
If a child is poor and not reading on grade level by third grade, he has only a one-in-six chance of graduating high school. In Southern Pines, one of every four children is classified as living in poverty, according to the data.
The Country Bookshop, Southern Pines Public Library and Boys and Girls Club are expanding their summer reading programs to increase literacy. The library sponsors different summer book clubs and family nights to encourage reading while not in school.
For instance, this summer the Boys and Girls Club is taking its kids to the Aberdeen Primary School library every Thursday to get more books. The club will work closely with the library’s summer reading program and host book clubs to address the loss of learning during the summer.
The campaign has branded itself with Ready Freddy the frog. Ready Freddy creates a unified front of the supporters of the program.
Staff writers Ted Natt and Kirsten Ballard contributed to this story. Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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