NASHVILLE —Education Commissioner Candice McQueen and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd announced today that, with support from the Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), the Read to be Ready Summer Grant program will be expanded to reach an additional eight distressed counties.

“Currently, only one-third of economically disadvantaged students read proficiently by the end of third grade, but we have a different vision for our students,” Commissioner McQueen said. “This additional funding allows us to reach some of our state’s most underserved children and continue on our path to ensure all Tennessee students are thinkers, problem-solvers, and future leaders of our state.” 

Twenty-one applicants applied for Read to be Ready summer grants to serve students in what the Appalachian Regional Commission designates as a distressed county, a county that ranks in the bottom 10 percent of the nation’s counties on the basis of low per capita income and high rates of poverty and unemployment.

After seeing the statewide response to the department of education’s Read to be Ready summer grant application process earlier this spring, TNECD pledged to fund additional summer programs in Tennessee communities that serve our state’s neediest families. The department of education then carefully reviewed additional programs designed to serve students in distressed counties and selected eight programs based on competitive criteria.

“Educational attainment is workforce development, which is economic development,” Commissioner Boyd said. “Early reading skills are critical to educational success. Thus, this program is critical to economic development and nowhere is it more so than in our distressed rural communities. For these reasons, we are happy we are able to support the department of education’s Read to be Ready initiative.”

Last month the department of education, along with a team of 16 reviewers, selected 12 summer reading programs across the state to receive Read to be Ready grants this summer, funded by a $1 million donation from the Dollar General Foundation. These programs were selected out of 224 applicants through a highly competitive process based on specific criteria. The eight additional programs receiving funding through TNECD were also selected from the original pool of applicants.

The following programs will receive funding through TNECD. School system, region of the state, and name of the director are listed below.

  1. Hardeman County Schools, Southwest, Betsy Lucas
  2. Perry County Schools, South Central, Trena Graves
  3. Wayne County Schools, South Central, Dana Keeton
  4. Bledsoe County Schools, Upper Cumberland, Elizabeth Hannah
  5. Fentress County Schools, Upper Cumberland, Tammy Crouch
  6. Grundy County Schools, Southeast, Suzan Richardson
  7. Oneida Special School District, East, Denise May
  8. Hancock County Schools, First TN, Valerie Harrison

Read to be Ready summer grants are designed to fund programs that focus on low-income students who experience the greatest summer learning loss.

Summer grants are part of a larger coordinated approach to move third grade reading proficiency in Tennessee to 75 percent by 2025. The Read to be Ready campaign seeks to raise awareness about the importance of reading, unite efforts to address the reading gap, highlight and implement best practices, and build partnerships.

To support this ambitious goal, the department has created an office of reading led by Executive Director of Reading Becky Cox. Cox will coordinate and align the department’s efforts focused on reading and will collaborate with the department’s new director of reading coaching, Dr. Liz Norton. The Read to be Ready Coaching Network, led by Norton, will offer specialized training and coaching to K-3 teachers across the state, a key strategy to support educators and increase reading proficiency in Tennessee.

To find out more about the summer Read to be Ready grant requirements or the campaign, visit the Read to be Ready website. To learn more about the training providers will receive, please visit the department of education’s blog, Classroom Chronicles.

For more information, contact Ashley Ball at (615) 532-6260 or [email protected]

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