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$5.2 Million Grant to Boost Literacy Efforts in 7 NKY School Districts

A $5.2 million grant will benefit literacy programs in seven Northern Kentucky school districts.

The Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services worked with the districts to secure the funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program, which promotes literacy activities and book distribution for children and students from birth through 12th grade in low-income communities.

The local districts include Bellevue, Bracken County, Dayton, Erlanger-Elsmere, Silver Grove, Southgate, and Williamstown.

The $5.2 million was awarded to support two related but separate grants, a news release said.

River Country Readers divides more than $2.9 million among Bellevue, Dayton, Southgate, and Williamstown schools to serve more than 3,300 children. Of those, 2,833 are students in preschool through grade 12 at eight schools within those four districts, and an estimated 500 are children ages newborn to 3 years old. Bellevue Independent Schools is the fiscal agent for River Country Readers.

Reading Our Own Books provides $2.25 million to be shared among Bracken County, Erlanger-Elsmere, and Silver Grove Schools to serve nearly 4,500 children.  Of those, 3,974 are students in preschool through grade 12 at 10 schools within those three districts, and an estimated 500 are children ages newborn to 3 years old. Erlanger-Elsmere School District is the fiscal agent for Reading Our Own Books.

“This grant award will provide literacy resources, technology, family engagement resources, and teacher training,” said Dr. Kathy Burkhardt, superintendent of Erlanger-Elsmere Schools. “At a time when state funding for education is being reduced and is at the same level as 2008, these much-needed resources will assist districts in providing research-based literacy instruction and student access to STEM opportunities.”

“This is an important grant for our communities and our kids as many kids today lack access to books and book ownership,” said Jay Brewer, superintendent of Dayton Independent Schools.“It is imperative that we get good books into the hands of our students, teachers, and even the parents,” said Greg Duty, Superintendent of Southgate Independent Schools.

“These funds, over the next three years, will help us reach goals and provide opportunities that limited state funding does not allow,” said Robb Smith, Superintendent of Bellevue Schools.

Each participating district's libraries will be supported with nearly $30,000 annually, supporting the addition of approximately 700 new books each year. For example, that represents a third of the current collection at Dayton High School.

The average age of the districts' library collections is 25.9 years, a news release said.

Students will also be able to take books home.

“According to research, children in middle-income neighborhoods had multiple opportunities to observe, use, and purchase books – approximately thirteen titles per child,” said Dayton Superintendent Brewer. “Few opportunities were available for low-income children who, in contrast, had approximately one title per three hundred children. This grant allows us to take an important step in improving access and opportunity for all children to learn and grow. We know that book ownership is important to children becoming life-long readers.”

The benefit of such grant funding being shared among multiple districts facing similar challenges is enormous, including leveraging shared resources and working together to establish best practices, a news release said.

“When teams of educators believe that they have the ability to make a difference and that through their unified efforts they can overcome challenges and produce intended results, groups are more effective by uniting,” said Amy Razor, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services. “Each month the Grants Consortium (at NKCES) discusses local issues, builds human capacity by sharing ideas, and leverages resources to apply for grants that benefit students. The power of collective efficacy is demonstrated in the efforts of the NKCES Grants Consortium, and they are truly a group that is stronger together on behalf of students in Northern Kentucky.”

“This grant will bring several innovative teaching ideas to the River Country independent districts of Bellevue, Dayton and Southgate along with our rural partner and independent district of Williamstown," said Bellevue superitnendent Smith. This grant will provide all four districts a grant coordinator and each district will hire an innovation specialist. At Bellevue, we look forward to bringing innovative strategies to our students to increase not only literacy acquisition but achievement in all content areas. Our libraries will receive new materials as well as our classrooms.”  

“The Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant will infuse nearly $750,000 over the next three years into the district; helping teachers implement early literacy initiatives, updating the collection and providing eBooks in our libraries, embedding STEM based literacy activities, and new technology in each school,” said Bracken County superintendent Jeff Aulick.

“The collaborative and cooperative spirit of our seven NKCES school districts to put kids first is witnessed in the awarding of these two grants. Our NKCES public school districts don’t see borders; they see possibilities," Brewer said. "None of these school districts could have earned this grant alone. This is yet another example of the amazing work being accomplished by the collaborative spirit of Kentucky Public Schools to improve learning opportunities for all kids.”

“The Erlanger-Elsmere School District is very fortunate to partner with NKCES and the other districts on this wonderful literacy grant opportunity. This literacy grant is an exemplary example of hard work and collaboration to provide exciting and engaging learning experiences to our students as well as increased access and opportunities to hands-on learning,” Erlanger-Elsmere superintendent Burkhardt said.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this amazing opportunity to help our students and so many throughout the region," Silver Grove superintendent Dennis Maines said. "This work will continue our mission of working together to ensure that all students reach their highest potential. This will have a significant positive impact on our community and future students.  We truly thank the NKCES Grants Consortium and all of their hard work to make this possible for all of us.”\

“The Southgate Independent School District is very fortunate to be in collaboration with Dayton, Bellevue, and Williamstown for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Grant," Southgate superintendent Duty said. "Our district continues to focus on a love for literacy because we know the doors that will open for our Little Lions. We must build this mission from the ground up so increasing the individual libraries in the homes will pay dividends in the long run. The collaboration in the Northern Kentucky region is like no other so working together as a team will make everyone better!” 

“The collaborative effort of Northern Kentucky educators and the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services on the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Grant is life changing for our communities," Williamstown superintendent Amy Harris said. "I am proud to be a part of a team of professionals that believe in shaping the future of education through servant leadership and supporting Northern Kentucky literacy efforts.

"For Williamstown Independent, this grant means another educator to strengthen our goal of enhancing our literacy focus to ensure we are supporting our vision of Preparing Students for Productive Citizenship. It means we will be able to provide books to students preschool to 12th grade that they can take home to read with their family and enhance our library media center. It means we can continue our support of hands-on MakerSpace opportunities that promote career exploration and it means that we can provide professional learning to continue to build capacity with our staff to meet the ever-changing literacy needs of our students. School districts across the state are cut in funding but are still held accountable for student achievement. This grant will assist our region in providing literacy opportunities that may not have happened due to budget constraints.”

-Staff report