Appalachian Literacy Initiative receives $45,000 in grants to provide new books to local students

Holly Viers • Nov 25, 2019 at 8:30 PM

Students from across the region will be receiving new books this school year thanks to grant funds awarded to Appalachian Literacy Initiative.

The nonprofit organization provides books to students in five states: Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky. Last month, it received a $40,000 grant from First Book to be used in Virginia, along with $5,000 to be used in Tennessee.

“I think we have 29 schools this year that we’re working with for our regular programming,” said Tracy Griffith, who co-founded Appalachian Literacy Initiative with Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. “This grant, it was one of those things you apply for and you ask for the moon and you hope you get something.”

About Appalachian Literacy Initiative

Now in its second year, Appalachian Literacy Initiative aims to put high-quality books into the hands of children living in Appalachia. The nonprofit organization has expanded from serving 580 students last year to around 1,000 this year, Griffith said.

“We work primarily with fourth-grade classrooms,” Griffith said. “The teacher will get a set of books four times a year, and the kids get to pick a book four times. Then we ship them directly to the school.”

How will the funds be used?

In Virginia, Griffith said $30,000 of the $40,000 grant will be used to hold book fairs at Bristol, Virginia, elementary schools. The rest of the grant will be used to expand program offerings in places like Abingdon, Wise, Norton, Dungannon and Gate City.

“In Dungannon, we are in their intermediate school, so it’s fourth through seventh grade, and we actually are providing to the whole school,” Griffith said. “They’ll each get four books this year since we have the funds.”

In Tennessee, the $5,000 grant will benefit nine schools in Sullivan and Washington counties, Griffith said. Along with books for the students, Tennessee teachers who are enrolled in the Appalachian Literacy Initiative program will receive a $100 gift certificate to be used for classroom books, Griffith added.

What’s next?

In the future, Griffith said she and Bradley hope to expand their program offerings into more grade levels.

“As we grow, we ideally would like to grow within the schools,” Griffith said. “Primarily now, we’re just focusing on fourth grade, but there’s such an importance of kids reading. Kids that are at a higher risk, they don’t have access to books, so we’re really just trying to provide books in the home.”

For more information, visit readappalachian.org or search for “Appalachian Literacy Initiative” on Facebook.