BY CURTIS CARDEN, Elizabethton Star
As the state looks to bolster early literacy efforts, Elizabethton City Schools is taking to the road to give area youth a chance to pick up a book to hold off a “summer slump.”
In its inaugural year, the Betsy Book Bus is making stops at different locations across the city to give out books to children thanks in part to a collaborative effort between the Governor’s Books from Birth Foundation, Appalachian Regional Commission and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Carter County School system also has a book bus on the road this summer to provide books to county children.
Only in its second week, the bus has already made an impact, according to Betsy Book Bus Director Carla Whiles, with roughly 600 books being presented to children.
“We had a wonderful first week,” Whiles said. “A lot of the students have said they started reading their books and that’s great. That’s what we’re trying to promote.”
To make sure the deadline was hit in time, the program is currently using a temporary bus. The actual Betsy Book Bus is being outfitted by Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) – Elizabethton and is expected to be ready in July.
Betsy Book Bus is just one of the different tools the city is using to accomplish the state’s Read to Be Ready literacy goal of having 75 percent of third grade students being proficient in reading by 2025. Currently in its second year, Camp Read-A-Lot is also offering a camp atmosphere for roughly 30 students as a way to promote joy and fun when it comes to reading at East Side Elementary.
Julie Hartsook, director of the camp, said the camp has been a successful due to the collaborative effort of parents, volunteers and the outpouring of support from the community. Hartsook added it is a joy to see the various activities being offered to children.
“The growth and opportunity has been immense, especially over the past couple of years, for these programs,” Hartsook recently told the Elizabethton Star. “I’m very proud that Elizabethton City Schools has been accepting to their initiatives. This has been a great learning experience for our students, and our teachers. Our goal is to make sure we give the students’ the best opportunity they can for their education.”
Whiles added that the routes will be regularly updated through the school system and residents can view social media and the school website for more details.
For the future of the program, Whiles added the goal is to have a book drive near the start of the school year to prepare for the second installment. Monetary donations are also being accepted to help preserve the future of the book bus.
Individuals looking to support the program can contact Central Office for more details.