$500K grant to bolster literacy

STEUBENVILLE — A $500,000 grant to bolster literacy has been awarded to the Jefferson County Educational Service Center.

The ESC was among 46 sites across Ohio to receive a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant to improve language and literacy development. The Ohio Department of Education said the state received $35 million last fall from the U.S. Department of Education. Some 95 percent of the money is being distributed directly to local schools and early childhood education providers to improve literacy for children from birth through their senior year in high school.

The three-year grant will focus on serving the greatest numbers of students living in poverty, students with disabilities, English learners and students identified as having reading difficulties.

Jefferson County ESC Superintendent Chuck Kokiko said a meeting with member districts determined the greatest need runs locally from kindergarten through eighth grade. Among the local district participants are Buckeye, Indian Creek, Toronto, Southern and Harrison Hills.

“We’re currently in year one of three years of funding,” Kokiko added. “The grant is geared toward reading, and our particular focus is going to be phonics.”

Teachers will undergo specialized professional development training and a reading coach will be employed to aid schools. Kokiko said the position should be filled during the summer, with training sessions to be conducted regularly throughout the grant duration.

“With the importance of developing strong reading skills in the early grades, the JCESC is excited to bring these resources and opportunities to our districts. We believe this could have a significant impact on children’s learning for years to come,” Kokiko said.

He thanked the participating districts for helping complete the grant application, which included more than 200 pages with supporting documentation.

The Ohio Department of Education received 110 applications and used a competitive peer review process to select recipients.