A crowd of Blount County middle school students and their parents flowed into Hastings recently to hear readings from three local authors and some school “dignitaries.”
The participants got to hear middle school principals and other school officials read from their favorite books. The whole idea was to show how everyone could become a lover of reading, said Terri Bradshaw, Carpenters Middle School literacy leader.
“The idea was for parents and students to see principals say, ‘I really wasn’t in love with reading until I picked up this particular book.’ They find out we’re not all inherent readers - we develop into readers,” Bradshaw said. “Sometimes I think they’re surprised at the kinds of materials people read.”
Bradshaw said the four middle school principals came and shared about their favorite books and talked about the first book they fell in love with. Mike Crabtree, an assistant principal at Carpenters Middle School, read, as did Elementary School Supervisor David Murrell.
“It took about two and a half hours,” Bradshaw said of the program at Hastings. “Lots of people came at the beginning and ended up staying the whole time.”
Bradshaw said the late January event at Hastings was called Family Literacy Night. All four county middle school literacy leaders, whose job it is focus on improving students’ reading skills, helped organize the event and encouraged students and their parents to participate.
“We had probably close to 80 show up - parents and students,” Bradshaw said. “As literacy leaders, part of our focus is to involve parents.”
Three local authors came and did readings. The authors were Tony Karnowski, who has two books out; Diane Stewart, a teacher in the Knox County schools system who has written two books for the middle school audience; and Edward Sullivan, who wrote a book about the history of Oak Ridge.
Bradshaw said businesses such as Aubrey’s, Unique Hair Designs, Blount Chiropractic, Beef O’Brady’s and Hastings contributed to the event. “We had lots of support from the community,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw said the literacy leaders hope to do a Family Literacy Night again. “With 80 in attendance for a first time event on a yucky night and a ninth grade football meeting at William Blount High School, there were a lot of students who might have come who didn’t,” she said. “We just wanted to build on it.”
Bradshaw said this is the first year there have been literacy leaders in the county’s middle schools. “It’s a Title I position. One of our goals has been to monitor student progress. We do that by checking with teachers, checking on grades, looking at testing results,” she said.
In addition to Bradshawat Carpenters Middle, the literacy leaders for the county middle schools are Kae Wrinkle at Eagleton Middle School, Rebecca Wolfenbarger at Heritage Middle School and Cindy Van Pelt at Union Grove Middle School.
“The four of us really work well together. We have a diverse background,” Bradshaw said. “Cindy has an elementary school background. Kae has a middle school background, and Rebecca has a high school background, so it’s been interesting to watch.”
Literacy leaders also help prepare students for the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) tests. The literacy leaders also try to promote parental involvement. Events such as Family Literacy Night help achieve that goal.