Book drive runs through February
The United Way book drive for third-graders kicks off today and lasts through the month of February.
Nancy Gray, United Way executive director, said the book drive is part of the organization’s initiative to improve the reading levels for all third-graders in Vance County.
“We are collecting gently used or new books for elementary school children, primarily for children in third grade,” she said. “We are giving them to the public schools in the third grade and they will be used in the classroom for children to have extra reading materials and they can take books home too.”
The Proctor & Gamble Pet Care facility in Henderson started the book drive in mid-December, and just recently turned over a box of books to the United Way.
Bruce Lambert, initiative leader at P&G, said the company wanted to start the book drive during the holiday season because it’s a time when people get new books and donate their old ones.
“We know how important reading in the third grade is,” Lambert said. “I’ve seen that personally because I have a son in the fourth grade and his reading improved a lot between third and fourth grade.”
Gray said the goal is to collect 2,000 books, which would be about 70 books in every third-grade classroom. She said there are 25 third-grade classrooms in Vance County Schools and three third-grade classes in Vance Charter school.
People can donate books at three locations: at Nationwide Insurance at 191 Ruin Creek Road, at The Dispatch at 304 Chestnut Street, and at the United Way office at 212 Dabney Drive.
“We found most of the classrooms do not have supplemental reading materials,” she said. “Back in November, we asked the third-grade teachers what we could do to help the reading skills of our third-graders and they mentioned not having books in the classroom. A lot of children do not have books in the home either.”
Gray said her organization is looking for volunteers to go into the schools and listen to children read.
“Once we get our book drive going, that will be our next thing,” she said.
United Way is also planning to have businesses and other organizations sponsor individual third-grade classrooms, to provide volunteers and incentives for students to meet their reading goals.
“Teachers said it would help to have incentives. It might even be small incentives, but they are still significant for the kids,” she said.
Gray said the United Way was hoping to have a pep rally event at the Skateeum in Henderson before Saturday to jump-start the book drive. But the weather has delayed the event until next week.
She said the rally is a way to bring all the children together and get them excited about reading.
“We are going to be buying each child a book because we want to have a book for every child to take home,” she said.
The United Way is targeting third-graders because of the state’s new Read to Achieve program that is a component of the Excellent Public Schools Act of House Bill 950, which became law in July 2012 and went into effect this school year.
In Vance County Schools, only 26 percent of third-graders, 24 percent of fourth-graders and 23 percent of fifth-graders scored proficient on the state reading exam in 2012-2013, according to data from the state Department of Public Instruction.
The new state reading program requires third-grade students read at or above grade level by the end of the third grade and those students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency this school year by scoring three or higher on the end of course test can retake that test or another Read to Achieve test, according to the Excellent Public Schools Act of House Bill 950.
The law states some students who do not score proficient on the test can qualify for one of five “good cause exemptions.” If those students still do not meet reading proficiency, they can take summer reading camp.
But students who do not qualify for an exemption and do not demonstrate proficiency after summer school, will not be promoted to the fourth grade in fall 2014.
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