Book Buddies not cut from school, says principal

Published 2:39 pm Wednesday, August 7, 2013

FRANKLIN—S.P. Morton Elementary School Principal Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins said Tuesday she wants to assure people that the Book Buddies and Book Mice programs at the school have not been shut down, but that the programs admittedly do look different.

This statement comes in response to a letter to the editor published in The Tidewater News (“Bring back The Book Buddy Volunteer Program” Sunday, Aug. 4). In her letter, Faith D. Atkinson of Franklin expressed concerned the school had closed the first-grade program.

The Book Buddy program, which began in 2001, assigns an adult volunteer with a student in first- or second-grade who’s having difficulty learning to read. They would meet a couple of times a week and during the sessions review lesson plans intended for that child.

Kindergarteners are the focus for the Book Mice program.

“We have confidence in the programs,” Rollins said.

“We look at every way to strengthen test scores in reading,” she said. For example, this year the school is adding another reading specialist to the faculty.

For Book Buddies and Book Mice, Rollins said, there have been two paid literacy coordinators, who handle the volunteers.

“I reassigned one of the coordinators to fill other duties,” she said, adding that person is working at an iStation, which is an online reading tutorial requiring instruction and assessment. Rollins said she’s able tell whether or not students are concentrating on the course or just clicking their way through, so she wants that person to ensure “it’s done with fidelity.”

Any rumor that the program is closed is incorrect, said Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michelle Belle, who also assures the programs have been restructured, “but by no means eliminated.”

Belle said she would welcome volunteers to also help coordinate Book Buddies and Book Mice.

“The bottom line is it’s about the children and the benefit of the program to the children,” she said, and added, “We’re very excited about the reading specialist (at S.P. Morton) to work directly with children.”