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District receives $1.5 million grant for innovations in early literacy

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.


The Philadelphia School District and the Free Library have received a $1.5 million federal grant for a program called "Building Bridges with Books" that will benefit students from 10 elementary schools.

The program is designed to "build bridges" between families and schools through early literacy activities, including monthly parent training sessions on the importance of reading and talking to children and regular visits to the library.

"This two-year grant will bond our institutions to the collective civic goal of having all of our 8-year-old children read on grade level," said Dennis Creedon, the District’s deputy chief of academic enrichment, in an email. "We are extremely grateful for the Department of Education’s support in building early childhood literacy skills and joy in reading."

Students in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades will make biweekly trips to their local Free Library branch. In addition, the 10 schools will receive 30 new iPads each, allowing them to access more than 1,000 children’s books in the library’s collection. Students will also receive four books each to take home over the summer.

Parent training sessions will be held at the schools and the libraries, and teachers and school librarians will get expanded professional development as part of the grant, which is spread out over two years. Very few Philadelphia schools have school librarians, largely due to budget cuts, and many school libraries are not used or are underused.

The grant is through the U.S. Department of Education’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy program, aimed at areas with high poverty and low student achievement. It was one of several awarded to districts nationwide and was announced Monday.

The participating schools are: Cmdr. John Barry, Gen. George Meade, Delaplaine McDaniel, William C. Bryant, Add B. Anderson, Lewis Elkin, James J. Sullivan, John B. Kelly, James R. Ludlow, and Robert Morris Elementary Schools.

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