Literacy Grant allows Lowndes County Public School libraries to open on Saturdays and extend instructional services beyond school

Published 3:58 pm Friday, January 10, 2014

By Fred Guarino

Lowndes County Public Schools have been awarded the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Grant for a second year, 2013-2014, which will allow public school libraries to be open to parents and students on Saturdays.

Transforming School Libraries to Facilitate a Culture of Literacy is the district’s topic, in conjunction with Perry County Schools, according to Dr. Benitha D. Mathews, Ed.D.

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Mathews serves as the district technology coordinator and library media supervisor for Lowndes County Public Schools and as the Literacy Grant director for both Lowndes County and Perry County Pubic Schools.

She said the $374,249 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education is for both Lowndes County and Perry County Public Schools.

Mathews said the grant has afforded the school systems with “the ability to acquire thousands of hardback books in addition to eBooks, which are electronic books, that we can store on any of mobile devices… not just limited to the Kindles, but our iPads and any of our computers.”

She said she is “elated and excited about another opportunity to provide a service for our students and parents on Saturdays.”

Lowndes County School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd said, “This particular grant allows us to extend the normal boundaries of the schools.”

He said parents of students can check out technology and books and that instructional services can be provided outside the school with parents help.

“The goal is to transform the school libraries into centers of learning for students, families and teachers in order to increase the reading proficiency scores of our students, ” Mathews said. “In order to assist with accomplishing this goal, the media specialists will provide services on Saturdays 50/52 weeks of the school year. All schools will be opened on a rotating basis.”

Lowndes County Public Schools libraries will be open on a four-school/three-school basis from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on rotating weekends until Aug. 9, according to Mathews.

The schedule began with Calhoun, Central Elementary, Hayneville Middle School and Lowndes County Middle School on Jan. 11.

On Saturday, Jan. 18, libraries were open at Central High, Fort Deposit Elementary and Jackson-Steele Elementary.

The schedule will continue to rotate between those same school groups until the end of the school year.

“Consequently, as a result of the funding from the grant, we have been able to purchase Kindle e-Readers that will provide our students will additional resources in which to read,” Mathews said. “Students are no longer limited to reading using the traditional method of picking up a book. Students now have access to thousands of books electronically through the e-Readers.”

She said, “Students will be allowed to check out an e-Reader to take home upon completion of the Kindle e-Reader agreement that must be read and signed by parent and student and returned to the media specialist of their respective school.”

In addition to the e-Readers, Mathews said, each library has been supplied with more non-fiction books available in hard copies and eBooks, increasing the number of books being checked out by our students.

Mathews said one of the objectives of the program was to have at least 500 students and parents in attendance on Saturday. She said that goal was exceeded for 2012-2013 reflecting a number count of 1,192.

Mathews said, “We hope to exceed that number for 2013-2014 school year. In order to surpass this number, we have planned specific activities for our parents and students for the next few months.”

Any questions should be directed to Mathews at 334-548-2131 at the central office or the media specialist at each school.

Activities planned include:
January- e-Reader training – Parents will be taught on how to utilize the Kindle.

February – Accelerated Reader Training (Home Connect). Accelerated Reader (AR) is a powerful tool for monitoring and managing independent reading practice. Parents can access real-time information in English or Spanish to stay up to date and keep their children motivated.

March – iPad training. Parents will be taught on how to utilize the iPad.

April – Alabama Virtual Library (AVL) Provides students, teachers, and citizens of the state with online access to library information resources.

In addition, for the month of January, Mathews and Dr. Lorenza Smith, Career Tech director, partnered together to host a “Career and Literacy Prep Seminar for male students in the high schools.

The seminars were held Saturday, January 11th at The Calhoun and January 18th at Central High School.

Mathews said, men from Epsilon Theta Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. were in attendance to provide mentorship to our male students.