Youngest students at 11 Fulton County schools to receive boxes of books

Thousands of students at 11 Fulton County schools soon will receive boxes of books chosen specifically to strengthen their reading skills.

The school board recently approved spending just over $2 million in federal pandemic relief dollars to purchase family literacy boxes. They will be distributed twice a month to 3,300 of the district’s youngest learners.

In each box, students will receive 10 “decodable” books personalized for their reading level. The box includes a guide for parents to help their children use the materials at home.

“Decodables are a huge deal. They’re evidence based, and it is a tool to get kids reading at higher levels,” said board member Franchesca Warren at a meeting earlier this month. “This is a great way not to only spend federal money but to put our money where our mouth is around literacy.”

Earlier this year, the district launched a $90 million literacy initiative aimed at helping students who have fallen behind because of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fulton leaders also are in the midst of updating English language arts textbooks used in all grade levels. Superintendent Mike Looney told board members he expects those new textbooks and classroom resources, scheduled to be selected in the spring, will include similar materials as the books the board just approved.

“This is meant to be a bridge expenditure between now and then,” Looney said.

The district used reading data from the beginning of the school year to identify the schools most in need of the extra literacy support.

All students in prekindergarten through second grade who attend those schools, as well as children in those grades who are learning virtually, will receive the boxes, officials said.

The sites are: Asa G. Hilliard, Bethune, Feldwood, Gullatt, Hamilton E. Holmes, Heritage, Love T. Nolan, Mimosa, Oakley, Parklane and Seaborn Lee elementary schools.

Families should receive the first box of books in January.