Kentucky Arts Council Supports Reading Celebrations in Kentucky Communities
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Based on the model of the highly successful Clay County Reading Celebration, the Kentucky Arts Council has awarded Reading Celebration grants to Fulton Independent Schools, Marion County Schools, Estill County Schools and Powell County Schools to partner with their respective communities in the creation of events that bring families and schools together to celebrate reading. The grants of $5,000 each have been made possible through support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Challenge America program. Clay County School district was awarded $3,000 to conduct workshops and training for other school district grantees and to assist the Kentucky Arts Council in developing a Reading Celebration Manual as a model for school across the nation that would like to emulate such a program.
The Clay County Reading Celebration, begun in 1998 by a citizen group, is for all elementary schools in the county and involves the whole community. The celebration annually transforms an entire school into a fantasyland, attracts dozens of authors, provides plenty of fun snacks and gives away free books; all to entice children into the world of books. Overall academic scores of the Clay County elementary students rose from a score of 50.7 on the C.A.T.S. (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System) in 1999 to a score of 96.2 in the 2006 assessment. Equally impressive are the numbers of avid readers produced since the beginning. In 1999, only seven elementary school children read well enough to be honored for reaching a goal of 300 accelerated reading points. At the May 22, 2009 celebration, 1,060 students met their accelerated reading goals. This year's celebration had over 2,500 attending the event including special guests Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo, Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Kentucky Poet Laureate Gurney Norman.
Marion County School District was the first of the grantees to have their celebration, this past October. “For those that thought reading was boring, the reading celebration certainly turned that thought around and gave parents ideas about how they can make reading fun for their own children, said Diane Evans, instructional supervisor for the Marion County School District.
Powell County School District’s reading celebration, “Journey Through the Arts,” on March 28, was an evening filled with student performances involving music, storytelling, drama, media and folk art productions at Bowen Elementary School. The celebration included projects led by artists from the Kentucky Arts Council's Arts Education Artist Roster, Yolantha Pace, Octavia Sexton and Susan Mullins.
Fulton Independent School District’s celebration, "Holiday of Books," was held on May 8, 2009, at Carr Elementary School with theme rooms decorated for major holidays of the year and related books. "We had a tremendous turnout," said Fulton Independent Schools Superintendent Dianne Owen. "I thought it was one of the best things we did all year. It really showed how much fun reading can be."
The Estill County Reading Celebration, "Oh, the Places You'll Go With Reading," was held on May 22, 2009, at Estill Springs Elementary School with over 2,500 in attendance, including Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear. Each storybook theme room was sponsored by a local business, organization or agency which provided decorations, food and helped with activities. "The outstanding thing about our celebration was the community collaboration," said Community Education Director Teresa Dawes. "Our sponsors really helped contribute to the success of the event."
The Kentucky Arts Council will publish the "Reading Celebration Manual" online by the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. "Hopefully, the manual will serve as a model for school districts anywhere to begin reading celebrations," said Lori Meadows, executive director of the Kentucky Arts Council.
The Kentucky Arts Council is a state agency in the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet that creates opportunities for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.
NOTE TO EDITORS: To access print quality photo click on http://artscouncil.ky.gov/Press_Images/MarionCoRead_prep.jpg
Photo Caption: Preparations for Marion County's Reading Celebration centered on the theme of "Gregory, the Terrible Eater" by Mitchell Shamat. (Photo courtesy of Marion County School District)
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