It’s been a rough couple of days for West Virginians: Their basketball team didn’t advance past the Final Four and a terrible mining accident has left several dead. But while others focus on the bad news, we’ve got some good news coming out of the state.
ABLE Families , a small nonprofit in Mingo County, West Virginia, has introduced an “Authors After School Program” designed to combat illiteracy and get kids excited about reading, reports Non-Profit Quarterly . ABLE Families, according to their website, strives to address “the systemic causes of poverty by supporting low-income families as they make positive changes in their lives.”
The literacy program brings in local children’s book authors to interact with kids after they’ve had a chance to read their books. Three days before each visit, each child receives his or her own copy of one of the author’s books. They read the book together aloud, and then talk about what they read with after school staff. Over the following days, the kids engage in a series of activities related to the characters, events, and themes in the book.
On March 25, the children met author Anna Egan Smucker, reports The Herald-Dispatch . Ahead of her visit, each child read her book No Star Nights, the story of a young girl growing up half a century ago in Weirton, where her father worked in that city’s steel mills. The children read it together, discussed it, and created arts projects and ate snacks related to the book. A local miner was invited to come and talk about his job. One staff member led the kids in a discussion about memory and what they think they’ll remember about their own childhoods when they’re grown.
In April, local author Sarah Sullivan will visit the after-school site, followed by a visit by Marc Harshman in May.
The National Center for Education Statistics found that 13 percent of adults in West Virginia did not have the basic prose literacy skills in 2003, the latest year data is available. Mingo County has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the state. The US Department of Education defines prose literacy as the ability to read sentences and paragraphs for daily functioning.
The good news is that literacy in the state is on the rise and programs like “Authors After School” can only help.
By Darragh Worland for Tonic