HOPE – The Hope Public School District will launch an initiative this month designed to ensure that all students read on grade level by the third grade.

HPSD Superintendent Bobby Hart pointed to the need for the program in citing statistics which show that 60 percent of pre-kindergarten students in the Hope district have not been academically ready for kindergarten at the time they enroll.

“We see a great need that we are going to attempt to resolve,” he said. “Students are coming to us at kindergarten not academically ready to learn; that is not the case in just our district, but also from across the country.

“We would like to develop a plan that takes children from birth to kindergarten, and this is the first step,” Hart said.

Hart said the new initiative 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.

“We have tremendous resources as a school system and as a community to provide students and families with opportunities to develop a lifelong love of reading,” he said. “We are looking forward to working with our partners at the Hempstead County Library, not only to increase literacy skills as our main focus, but also to increase usage of the public library. Like a lot of other communities, our public library is under-utilized by young readers.”

Hart and faculty members from Clinton Primary School and the Hope ABC Pre-School program will be available for presentations about the initiative at local civic and community organization meetings, he said.

“We want all of our civic organizations to understand the role that we think they can help play, not only in spreading the word, but also in working with our students to hear and learn from adult readers,” Hart said.

He emphasized that community participation by becoming a member of the “Cat Cub Reading Club” and reading aloud to Pre-K students is an easy way to give something back to the next generation of Hope schools students.

“Hope has a proud tradition of people working together in civic minded efforts; and, this would be another example of that and how much they value and are committed to help students achieve their dreams,” Hart said.

Businesses will be encouraged to participate by promoting the Book of the Month, which will reflect themes and ideas from films either based upon the book or similar concepts to be shown in the Hempstead Hall Movie Night series on the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana campus.

“This is another great example of the partnership between UAHT and Hope Public Schools working together to better our community and help our families,” Hart said.