City officials sign-up for reading initiative
Ken McLemore, Hope Public Schools

HOPE – City board members and officials of the City of Hope responded Tuesday night to a call by Hope Public Schools Superintendent Bobby Hart for volunteer mentors for a new pre-kindergarten literacy initiative.

Hart addressed the Hope City Board of Directors at its regular meeting to advocate for the three-part initiative which will engage not only the district’s teaching faculty but also the community through expanded community reading mentor participation at the Pre-K level; a community-wide Book of the Month program; and, a partnership with the Hempstead County Library through its summer reading program.

“At one time, only 20 percent of our kindergarteners were academically ready; but, as of a month ago, 80 percent of our kindergarteners are ready,” Hart said.

He credited part of that success to a program of Direct Instruction by teachers.

“It took a lot of hard work, but they’ve done a good job,” Hart said.

Hart has said the initiative goal is to ensure that every student reads at grade level by the third grade.

He said three key elements were being addressed in the initiative, including campus needs, student/teacher attendance, and Pre-K literacy.

The Pre-K literacy initiative is a three-part plan, Hart said, that begins with community reading mentors becoming part of the “Cat Cub Reading Club” to read aloud to Pre-K students.

“I’m asking the City Board to help us get the word out; spend 20 minutes reading to a classroom of kids,” he said.

Hart said that, while direct instruction is critical, children hearing the written word read aloud with clarity and meaning is also important.

City directors Don Hall, Mark Ross, Kiffinea Talley, Vice Mayor Steve Montgomery, Mayor Dennis Ramsey, City Manager Catherine Cook, Hope Police Chief J. R. Wilson, HPD Chief of Detectives Jimmy Courtney, and Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton all signed-up during the meeting.

The second aspect of the initiative is the Hope Book of the Month. Hart said HPSD is developing a partnership with Hempstead Hall at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana to connect its Pre-K literacy program with the Family Movie Night on the college campus.

“Dolly Henley has been fantastic to work with at Hempstead Hall,” Hart said.

Businesses will be encouraged to participate by promoting the Hope Book of the Month, which will reflect themes and ideas from films shown during the campus movie night. Hart said the first such tie-in will be with the new Star Wars film “The Force Awakens” to be shown April 16, to be followed by “Zootopia” on May 19.

“We’re trying to find funding to give the merchants a small supply of the books to distribute,” he said. “It will be a good way to bring the community together.”

The third aspect of the initiative extends into the summer through the Hempstead County Library, Hart said. He said a partnership has been established to encourage parents to obtain a library card for their children, which they will be able to do during parent-teacher conference night Thursday from 3:30 to 7 p.m. at Clinton Primary School.

HPSD will also sponsor a summer library program, “Appetite for Reading,” which will join with the HCL summer reading program each week throughout the summer.

“We’re going to run a bus route specifically for that event,” Hart said. “Then, we have a summer lunch program that will be involved.”

Interested reading mentors should contact ABC Pre-School Supervisor Marilyn Hampton at 722-2705, or Clinton Primary School Principal Ashlea Stewart at 722-2723.