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Funding from Gulfport Energy is funding small libraries aimed at boosting literacy skills in youngsters.

Stanton and John Gregg Elementary Schools were the recipients of a $7,000 allocation from the company and will help establish leading libraries at the buildings targeting children up to age 5 and their families. Diana Morello-DiSerio, regional literacy specialist with State Support Team Region 12 (SST-12), submitted the Gulfport Energy Fund application for education last enhance children’s vocabulary before they enter kindergarten.

Dr. Morello-DiSerio and Miguel Brun, intervention specialist and district literacy instruction coach, hope to assist more than 200 children who live in the rural communities and have no access to public libraries where they could read and participate in story time activities before entering preschool. According to research, children who are exposed to books and families who share in meaningful “talk” are better prepared to develop reading skills and are in better health throughout their lifespan. By forming the small libraries at the schools, families would have access to literature to help hone their child’s reading and vocabulary skills. More ideas are to include guest visitors and readers with assistance from area churches and having the room made available to area in-home childcare programs for professional development.

The funding provided for books, furniture, shelving and supplies for arts and crafts and other methods of learning. One site has already been established at Stanton with another planned for John Gregg, and Dr. Morello-DiSerio said the library ties into the district’s goal of bolstering literacy skills in youth.

“The district is part of a state literacy pilot project and we’re working on language and literacy,” she explained. “There’s also a family involvement component and I’m aware that Edison has been doing great things through a previous Striving Reader’s Grant. It’s in its third year and we’ll really be focusing on the family component in the lens of literacy. This mini-grant is for parents to have more access to things that will help increase their children’s language and literacy growth.”

She said the interaction would also help initiate book handling skills, book knowledge and vocabulary. In addition to picture books and storybooks, the libraries are also stocked with puzzles, music, puppets and building blocks to improve motor skills.

“We’re excited to get the grant so we could reach out to more parents as they come to school and see it as a place where everyone is learning.”

District Assistant Superintendent Julie Kireta sees the additions as a plus for the schools.

“Parents of our preschoolers can come, sit, read books and borrow books from the library. We want to encourage literacy and communication in our students as young as we can,” Kireta noted.

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