Southern Pines Joins Forces to Improve Reading
The facts aren’t pretty: 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.
Going up against problems like these is not easy, but a broad coalition of the town’s business, government and civic interests has come up with a game plan for fighting back.
The strategy, dubbed Southern Pines Grows Great Readers, is attacking on three fronts: school readiness, attendance, and summer learning loss.
The plan has captured not just the town’s attention but is also capturing notice on the national stage. The town is one of 32 — and the only North Carolina community — up for the prestigious All-America City Award.
“We feel we’ve already won,” said Southern Pines Library Director Lynn Thompson.
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 their plans to solve reading problems, and that was whittled to 32. Winners will be announced July 2 in Denver.
Caroline Eddy, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, will join Thompson and PineStraw’s Cos Barnes in Denver for the conference.
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. The schools have been teaching how to read with less focus on comprehension.
Thompson is excited about the opportunity to see how the other programs are functioning. “I’m really looking forward to the workshops we are going to attend. It’s just an amazing experience to be going and learning.”
“I think it’s great. It really speaks to the hard work the program has done,” said Stephanie Reynolds, unit director of the Boys and Girls Club of the Sandhills.
Her club is one of a host of community organizations participating in the Southern Pines campaign. Together, these partners created a plan to address six goals. There are summer reading programs and school attendance incentives.
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. As an example, the Southern Pines K9 unit dogs wear a Ready Freddy patch when they visit schools.
Contact Kirsten Ballard at Kirsten@thepilot.com.
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