Snow Hill Middle School receives grant

Snow Hill Middle School received a $3,800 grant from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore for its Project LIT program, as well as an additional $1,000 for winning the Mary Gay Calcott Award for Excellence on Nov. 8. Pictured, from left, are Principal Chris Welch, Superintendent Lou Taylor and Literacy Coach Cassidy Hamborsky.

(Dec. 7, 2018) Snow Hill Middle School students are apparently getting hooked on reading.

The school received a $3,800 grant for Project LIT, a program dedicated to increasing literacy in communities by introducing kids to high quality books. They received an additional $1,000 for winning the Mary Gay Calcott Award for Excellence.

Chris Welch, the school’s principal, said the grant funding will help buy books, T-shirts and supplies for the celebration. The extra $1,000 will also go towards program funding. She added they received the award for their passion and the “connection we had with the community.” 

She said Project LIT has a two-prong approach: it allows students to fall in love with reading, and share that love of reading with others in the area.

Welch said she hopes to model the school’s program off the national “grass roots movement,” which produces a recommended reading list targeting specific age groups.

She said the program aims to use these books to interact with community members in a variety of ways: in person and via social media.

“We ordered 90 books of each title so we try to get them into the hands of not only our students, but local community leaders ... so that they could also be a part of the project, and we’re really fortunate because the grant funding we have now we can order the books,” she said.

Welch said the school is reading several books, including Celia C. Pérez’s, “The First Rule of Punk” and Kuame Alexander’s “Rebound.” 

Those who finish the book get a party complete with games, food and prizes. Welch said the “celebration” is a small gesture, “but it’ll be big to them.”

Welch said when a student finishes a book it instills in him or her a sense of diligence and perseverance.

Welch said students are producing ideas to add other dimensions to the school’s project. One is working to organize a Skype chat with Alexander, the author of “Rebound.”

“I’ll tell you, I think we’ve got quite a group of student leaders, they’re in seventh and eighth grade, and they’re pushing forward,” she said. They really are taking this and are passionate about this ... so I’m excited to see what’s to come.” 

Getting students interested in books is a group effort that requires community partnership with area businesses and organizations.

“It’s just a way to get kids excited about … reading. Not only that, but it shows us that kids are readers, adults are readers, my pastor likes to read, the shop owner likes to read, the guys that works at McDonalds likes to read,” Welch said.

However, Welch stressed the need for accessibility when it comes to literature. She added some areas of the county are in a “book desert.” 

“We ... really want to get these books into the hands of people all over the community, so that we infuse literacy even to the far reaches of Snow Hill,” she said.

The lack of broadband and wireless internet makes Project LIT a priority for schools like Snow Hill Middle School. Welch went on to say students attending her school live in towns including Snow Hill, Stockton, Girdletree, and Public Landing.

Welch said Pocomoke and Snow Hill high schools have also adopted the Project LIT program, and she’s optimistic for the program’s future, and maybe a countywide program from kindergarten through 12th grade countywide.

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