Archived Story

Grant to boost reading

Published 4:40pm Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beaufort County Schools was recently awarded a grant that will ensure that all students can read by third grade.
District library coordinator Michele Oros found and wrote the district’s grant proposal.
“This is the thing that motivated us to write this grant proposal,” Oros said. “If a child in North Carolina, beginning in 2014, is not a proficient reader in third grade, he or she will have to go to summer school and get tested before advancing to fourth grade.”
State legislature set the goal in the North Carolina Read to Achieve program, part of a bill introduced last spring, but provided no funds for school districts to reach it. The bill said that students who could not read by the time they were in third grade would have to attend a “summer reading camp.”
Any student who could not read by camp’s end, would remain in third grade until the goal was accomplished.
“My estimate is it’s going to cost $500 per student for them to go to summer school,” said Oros. “We said, ‘Look, we’re going to have to do it anyway.’ And we’re the only school in the state that’s got the funding to do it.”
BCS was one of 146 districts awarded the grant nationally and the only district in North Carolina.
According to Oros’ grant application, 29 percent (148 of 498 students) of the school system’s 2011-2012 third-graders could not read proficiently. The rate of poor readers was highest at Northeast Elementary where 42.9 percent (24 of the school’s 56 third-graders) could not read proficiently and at Snowden Elementary where 37.9 percent (11 of 29 students) could not read proficiently.
Oros said the $700,000 grant would fund an afterschool and summer reading program. It would cover bus transportation and pay for subscriptions to online literacy programs.
The funds will also extend the school system’s Reading is Fundamental program to four additional schools serving pre-K to third grade. Part of that program will send students home with three books to read for pleasure during the summer.
“There is tremendous research that has found that the number of books in the home is very strongly related to academic success in the school,” Oros said.
During a school board meeting where news of the grant was shared, Superintendent Don Phipps commended Oros for her work on the grant and the program she proposed.
Board member Robert Belcher suggested setting dates during the summer where students could bring books back and swap with each other.
He had one more suggestion.
“I think Michele should waive her salary and take 10 percent of the grant money she has earned,” Belcher said at the close of the meeting.
Oros was all smiles.  To date, she has earned more than $3 million for the district.

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