The Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Education, in collaboration with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, recently announced the launch of a new K-3 book-delivery program to deliver 580,000 books to 58,000 students and teachers across the state.

 Over 50 school districts, including Franklin County, are participating in the program, which will deliver books and literacy resources directly to the homes of students and teachers at no cost to families or participating school districts.

Book packs consist of ten high-quality, grade-appropriate books with guided activities and tips for parents to engage with students as they read. Book packs and resources are expected to be delivered to students’ and teachers’ homes by the end of 2020.

Additionally, K-3 families will gain access to engagement tips via text.

The program was introduced at an early literacy event at Findlay Elementary School in Sparta and included participation from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn, GELF President James Pond, White County Schools Superintendent Kurt Dronebarger and Scholastic Education Senior Vice President of Sales Chris Hedrick. There was a special appearance by Clifford the Big Red Dog, who distributed books to students and teachers in attendance.

 “Now more than ever we are committed to our mission of strengthening early literacy in Tennessee by supporting our students and teachers with high-quality resources,” Pond said. “Together with Scholastic and our state partners, we can work to prevent the ‘COVID slide,’ and create a community classroom to foster lifelong learners and to support students, teachers and families during this time.”

 “Independent reading and reading aloud are crucial year-round practices to help support children’s academic and social-emotional development, both in and out the classroom,” Hedrick said. “With the Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Education, we’re proud to have an opportunity to reach even more Tennessee families with increased access to engaging, high-quality books.”

"The program is an incredible opportunity for our state to make important early literacy gains,” Schwinn said. “This partnership could not have come at a more important time, as many students, families and teachers are working hard to make up for classroom time lost last spring. Building literacy skills early is foundational to lifelong educational success and the department is grateful to GELF and Scholastic for their work to expand access to high-quality books and literacy resources and help students and families read together at home.”

 Participating districts for the new K-3 Book Delivery program were selected based on size, 2018-2019 third-grade reading proficiency rates and the economic prosperity of the county as defined by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Rural districts with lower reading proficiency rates were prioritized, and all three grand regions of the state are represented. Over 50 school districts are confirmed to participate as of this release date. For a full list of participating districts, click here.

 The new book-delivery program comes on the heels of a successful summer-reading pilot where GELF and Scholastic distributed 2,100 book packs to students. The response from children, parents and caregivers was overwhelmingly positive, sharing feedback about the excitement of receiving new books in the mail, the joy of sharing stories together and the magic of escaping through a good book.

 “The Scholastic book program was a blessing to many of our families,” said Carmen Hayes, principal of Southside Elementary School in Pulaski. “We have dispensed books in the past through the school system, but we found the one with GELF and Scholastic was especially successful because books and materials came directly to students’ homes. Many of the families in our Title I school lack reliable transportation and have not had access to past opportunities as a result. Our neediest students were able to benefit from this program. Also, the high-quality texts were just what our students needed, putting them at the same level of their peers.”  

 The book-delivery program is a part of the At-Home Reading Series to engage students and families to read more at home. Additional supports and family resources will be provided on the department’s Best for All Central: Tennessee’s Hub for Learning and Teaching.