McNair Elementary School was recently awarded a $1,750 literacy grant from Wal-Mart to benefit the school's primary level English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) students.
"I wrote the grant at the end of last year to start the audio book program," said Erica Meadows, McNair ESOL teacher. Meadows, who has taught at McNair from the start four years ago, said she applied for the grant to assist students in reading while listening to the audio-recorded version of the book.
"A lot of these kids don't have parents who can speak English, so they can't read along with them at home," she said. "The biggest factor in learning is exposure to reading at home, and a lot of these kids don't have books at home."
Through the grant, Meadows has already purchased 90 book and tape sets for the 52 children she has enrolled in the program.
She said the money has helped purchase the tape players, pre-recorded audio tapes and corresponding books as well as batteries and book bags for the children.
As a part of the program, she explained students will choose a different book each week to take home and read through with the audio accompaniment. Once they have completed the book they are required to either draw a picture or fill out a response form about what happened in the book, which Meadows will then file and return to each child at the end of the school year.
"They love it, they are so excited," said Meadows about the children's response to the new program, adding once they understood what the program was about she received a rush of responses from interested children. "A lot of these children have two or three siblings at the school, so they will all benefit from this."
Meadows added that for many students their parents do not know how to read English, so the audio books will assist parents with their English skills as well.
Because more children are signing up for the program Meadows said she needs to purchase more supplies, adding currently the books are only for students in grades one through three, although she hopes to add more advanced books for the higher grades in the future.
"I am hoping it will go on and on," she said about the program, adding the existing grant and hopefully other donations will help it continue. "They're really using it, they're coming back and they're talking about it."