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Jo. Co Schools participates in Governor’s Early Literacy Program

Johnson County Schools started a book bus in 2019 to bring books to different locations and events for easy access. According to the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF), book buses are covered under its umbrella of programs. File photo.

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

On Wednesday, October 21, state officials announced the participants in the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) via a livestream with Governor Bill Lee. Johnson County is one of the more than 50 school districts chosen for this initiative to increase learning capabilities both at home and in the classroom chosen based on size, 2018-2019 third grade reading proficiency, and county economic prosperity. GELF, the Tennessee Department of Education, and Scholastic are partnering to provide a new kindergarten through third-grade book delivery program called the K-3 School Year Book Delivery.

“We are so excited and thankful for the opportunity to be selected for the Governor’s literacy partnership,” stated Angie Wills, Supervisor of K-6, Curriculum & Instruction/Federal Programs at Johnson County Schools. “We know that the more students that have access to reading materials at home, the more successful they will be in school.”

The GELF program will deliver 580,000 books to 58,000 children in the K-3 grades throughout the state of Tennessee at no cost to the participants as part of the At-Home Reading Series. Many, including Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, claim this is the perfect time for this program as the COVID-19 Pandemic has limited classroom time. State statistics show a drop in third-grade reading proficiency linked to COVID-related school closures. According to GELF, the program has distributed 2.5 million books since the beginning of the pandemic.

“This partnership could not have come at a more important time, as many students, families, and teachers are working hard to make up for classroom time lost last spring,” said Schwinn. “Building literacy skills early is foundational to lifelong educational success, and the department is grateful to GELF and Scholastic for their work to expand access to high-quality books and literacy resources and help students and families read together at home.”

The program already has signs of success, according to officials. GELF partnered with Scholastic to hold a summer reading program as a precursor, which served 2,100 packs of books to students. Adults and children involved responses were “overwhelmingly positive, sharing feedback about the excitement of receiving new books in the mail, the joy of sharing stories together, and the magic of escaping through a good book.”

The Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation started in 2004 as a partnership between Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and former Tenessee Governor Phil Bredesen to provide books to children from birth to age five. This foundation now includes Storybook Trails, Book Buses, K-3rd Grade Book Delivery, and Caregiver Engagement as well. For more information on GELF, visit GovernorsFoundation.org or Facebook @GovEarlyLiteracyTN, or call toll-free at (877) 99-BOOKS. For more information on Johnson County Schools, visit jocoed.net.