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WVPEC announces 2022 Sparking Early Literacy Growth projects to help close the disparity gap in reading proficiency

A small child with long golden blond hair sits on a desk while reading a book in front of a glass door.

Nine projects across the Mountain State will receive up to $50,000 from the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative's Sparking Early Literacy Growth initiative to help close the state's academic achievement gaps in reading proficiency. (Submitted photo)

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It’s undisputed among researchers that reading proficiency by the end of the third grade is a key developmental milestone in every child’s learning journey. Yet after lost opportunities for learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a clear need to help many of West Virginia’s youngest learners improve their comprehension, spelling, grammar and writing skills. According to the latest 2022 statewide English language arts assessment scores, 44% of West Virginia fourth graders scored at the reading proficiency level.

To help improve statewide literacy rates, the West Virginia Public Education Collaborative has announced nine projects across West Virginia will each receive up to $50,000 to strengthen West Virginia’s youngest learners’ reading and writing skills by the end of the third grade.

This is the second year of the WVPEC’s three-year Sparking Early Literacy Growth initiative, commissioned by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, to help close the state’s academic achievement gaps in reading proficiency. While projects range in scale, student population, grade level and region, they all target young learners in some of the state’s most rural or high-need areas.

“All West Virginia students deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential in the classroom and in the workforce, and that starts with making sure they have the reading skills that will set them on pathways to lifelong success,” said WVPEC Executive Director Donna Peduto. “Since each Sparking Early Literacy Growth project addresses specific causes of low literacy at the local level, we hope to break through literacy barriers and reach as many West Virginia students in need as possible.”

Through a rigorous selection process, numerous proposals were considered by a team of statewide literacy experts. The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation Board of Trustees approved eight projects, totaling $400,000 in funding. The EQT Foundation also elected to fund an additional project for $50,000.  

The projects vary in approach and resolve. They include providing explicit writing instruction into daily curriculum to improve students’ reading comprehension and exposing students to new vocabulary to help develop early language and cognitive skills. Others focus on professional development opportunities for teachers to enhance reading instruction and engagement with families and grandparents to encourage literacy education at home.

Following impressive benchmark assessments from Sparking Early Literacy Growth’s inaugural projects, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation representatives and literacy consultants from West Virginia University also chose to continue funding nine of the 11 projects awarded in 2021.

An overview of each Sparking Early Literacy Growth project is listed below.

Learn more and view full descriptions of 2022 projects.

Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation grants were awarded to:   

·      Berkeley County Schools — Building Self-Efficacy One Writer at a Time through I CAN Plans and STEAM Journal Writing Clubs

·      Clay County Schools — Bringing the Science of Reading to Clay County

·      Kanawha County Schools — Strengthening Teachers Knowledge of Foundational Literacy Skills

·      Pocahontas County Schools — Creating Thoughtful Writers Through Science

·      Mary C. Snow Elementary School, Kanawha County — Building a Village: A Community Building Approach to Increasing Early Literacy and School Readiness

·      Mason Dixon Elementary School, Monongalia County — Eagles’ NEST (Nurture, Educate, Succeed Together)

·      Rock Cave Elementary School, Upshur County — Bright Beginnings

·      Wood County Schools — Summer SPARKS

EQT Foundation grant was awarded to: 

·      WVU Extension Service, supporting West Virginia school programs in multiple counties statewide – Grandfamily Mentoring Program

The grant funds from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and EQT Foundation are awarded through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private contributions on behalf of the University.



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