Literacy grant expected to boost reading for students

Tahlequah Public Schools received the Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant from the U.S. Department of Education which will allow students to receive two free books. Elementary school students will be able to pick from a selection at their school's book fair.

Tahlequah Public Schools recently received the Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and the money will be distributed at all of its sites over the next four years.

The grant is worth over $3 million, and the purpose is to enhance literacy among TPS students.

"This is an amazing opportunity," said Natalie Cloud, grants coordinator at TPS.

The grant will allow the district to add literacy teachers, staff, media coordinators, and library offerings. With the money, students will also be able to take home two free books.

"We are going to work with Cherokee Nation and Northeastern Health System to provide additional free books when they go to child wellness visits," said Cloud.

As the grant was being written, school administrators noticed TPS students disproportionately have a student body that lacks reading materials at home. They have also found students who read at home are more likely to experience success. They are hoping this grant will help graduate students at a higher rate and prepare them for college, work, and life.

"A lot of money is coming to the district," said TPS Superintendent Leon Ashlock. "We are excited about what this will do for the district. That's a lot of resources."

Cloud said it is important that students have a say on what kind of reading materials they will take home, because it is no good to send kids home with books they will not read.

"We want kids to have some autonomy as to what they get to choose. At the elementary schools, they have book fairs, where we will let them choose the books they are interested in," she said.

At TMS and THS, they are working out the details on how to get books to students, because the secondary schools do not have book fairs.

The grant will also address students who speak English as a second language. Because many of their parents do not speak English, it puts them at a disadvantage.

"Some of our families are Spanish-speaking or in high poverty. These parents may not be equipped to help their kids," said Cloud.

For these students, they plan to bring EL literacy experts to engage with parents. They will also send home packets with EL parents to help them to connect with these families.

"We have recognized that we are not serving our EL students in the best way possible, and we want to target that population to even the playing field," Cloud said.

Learn more

For questions about the grant, contact Cloud at cloudn@tahlequahschools.org, or call 918-458-4198 ext. 19002.

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