Growth Academy receives grant for library, aim to improve literacy

Published 9:00 am Friday, October 6, 2023

To encourage student reading, Representative Debbie Wood presented a check to the Growth Academy for a new library room on Thursday.

As a part of the state Educational Fund, Wood attributed a check for $1500 to the afterschool and tutoring STEAM program. 

“It’s just a great asset for our community,” Wood said. “And I think whatever we can do to make it grow, to make it have all the resources it needs, we need to be doing.”

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Wood said she got the idea after bringing a set of law books to the facility and seeing a stack of donated books. 

Yancey Gatlin, Growth Academy director, said it has been his goal to create an expansive library to help “draw kids into reading.” 

The library will need some construction work and books to furnish it.

“It speaks a lot to reading comprehension,” Gatlin said. “We’ve been testing kids and seeing how many words they can read in a minute, and I think we need to slow them down a little bit.”

Alabama’s Literacy Act requires third-grade students to meet reading levels before advancing to the fourth grade. Wood said the goal is to help students be stronger readers and prepare them for their future.

“Since the state passed the Literacy Act, we should take some responsibility in ensuring that communities have the resources to help these children read,” Wood said.

As well as the required third-grade reading benchmarks, schools have to be mindful of the impact of COVID-19 on students. 

“Then you take into account the COVID learning losses taking place,” said Circle of Care Jonathan Herston. “And that needs all hands on deck.”

The Growth Academy is partnered with Circle of Care. The program was formed after the Boys and Girls Club closed during COVID-19. The goal is to provide a safe learning environment for kids after school.

The program is a nonprofit organization with scholarship and reduced pricing for many families. It stays open until 6:30 ET each day. 

At this time, the Growth Academy has around 95 students enrolled. They will soon have a total of 120 students attending tutoring.