By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

Literacy has been big news in Arkansas for several years, with Arkansas being 40thin the nation in liter-acy rates. To increase literacy skills and promote better under-standing of reading projects, Cave City fourth grade teachers have been proactive in creating ways to peak their student’s interest in reading through visionary techniques. Last week the teachers hosted a Literacy Night event that allowed students to showcase their successes during a family event. Since Covid restrictions that have prevented public and family events have finally been lifted, reading teacher Dana Westmoreland said herself and other teachers wished to involve parent’s with the student reading activities. She said last fall students participated in a science fair. They decided to do a reading fair, which involves students reading a book they love and creating either a poster board, diorama or science fair board project. “I wanted them to do it where they loved it, not like it was just work. They have had the project since January.” Westmoreland said the fourth grade team of teachers, which include math, science and writing, have worked collaboratively on the project. Bethany Smart, Jacob Hoskins and Sara Saffell have worked together to make the project a success. Several parent volunteers also helped decorate the Cave City saferoom for the event. Smart said, “We took a book and focused on it and also put their typing skills in it. They had a form they had follow to fill out. It was everything they culminated and learned about fiction. ”First second and third place ribbons and certificates were awarded for each category as well as an overall winner. She said they have seen kids sharing books with each other after reading one and telling the others about it, encouraging them to also read. “They are so proud, even if there was no help from home, the projects were great. If there was help at home, that is great too, as it is a great parental involvement activity.” Westmoreland said literacy is very important as a base on which all other subjects depend. By promoting an early love for reading amongst the students through the hands on activities that they can show and be proud of, the likelihood of them reading and continuing as they grow with a love for reading, also helps the in other subjects. Several parents arrived and students enthusiastically showed off their handiwork. By promoting literacy, Cave City Elementary School teachers hope to implant a lifelong love of reading. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2023, nationwide, on average, 21 percent of adults in the United States are illiterate. 54 percent of adults have a literacy be-low the sixth grade level. That lower is level in Arkansas with 23.1 percent of adults being illiterate. Low levels of literacy costs up to $2.2 trillion per year in the U.S. Programs have been established across the state and nation to promote and assist with the literacy needs of Americans. As a part of Governor Sarah Sanders recently passed LEARNS Bill,120 literacy coaches will be hired throughout the state to help students from kindergarten through the third grade who struggle with learning to read at the age reading skills are first established. These students would qualify for a $500 stipend to pay for a tutor. Students will be required to read at a third grade level before advancing to the fourth grade, under the act. Ac-cording to standardized assessments, only 35percent of third graders in Arkansas can read at grade level. Cave City has responded by planting the seed in children and it is the hope of teachers in all subjects that benefit from promoting literacy that projects of this type will be a successful means for children to succeed in reading and later in life.