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Kentucky’s First Lady Jane Beshear visits The Center for Pulaski County Literacy Day; addresses nearly 1,000 Pulaski County students

By May 16, 2011No Comments

Pulaski County Judge-Executive Barty Bullock addresses the crowd at Pulaski County Literacy Day.

Promoting the importance of reading as one of the fundamental building blocks in a child’s education, Kentucky’s First Lady Jane Beshear visited The Center for Rural Development on May 16 to encourage nearly 1,000 enthusiastic fourth-grade students in Pulaski County to discover the joy of reading.

Beshear, a strong advocate for literacy in Kentucky and former educator, attended Pulaski County Literacy Day, which was presented by Somerset businessman and education supporter Chuck Coldiron in partnership with Forward in the Fifth and The Center.

Each fourth-grade student in Pulaski County’s eight elementary schools, Somerset Independent School District, Science Hill Independent School District, and Somerset Christian School received a complimentary children’s book, donated by Coldiron, to take home with them.

“Few gifts are more precious and important than reading,” Beshear said. “We are very appreciative of Chuck Coldiron’s generosity in donating books to the fourth-graders of Pulaski County.

“Reading over the summer is proven to help retain learning, and these children have been given a good start today,” she added.

Kentucky's First Lady Jane Beshear met with school and community leaders for roundtable discussion about educational issues.

Beshear met with representatives from each of the participating schools and community leaders, including staff from Forward in the Fifth and The Center, for a roundtable discussion on leading educational issues and challenges in The Center’s board room before she addressed students in a separate program.

Forward in the Fifth—a non-profit organization and an affiliate of The Center—was founded by U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) and community and business leaders in 1986 to reverse low educational attainment levels in the Fifth Congressional District.

“Literacy is a launching pad for the future,” Rogers said. “Learning to read well is the first step to endless opportunities. I commend Forward in the Fifth for not only bridging the gaps between getting a diploma and starting a career, but for placing emphasis on early education and the value of reading.”

Coldiron, who purchased the children’s books and hosted a pizza party for every fourth-grade student in the county, said he wanted to make a difference to improve education in a life of a child.

Kentucky’s First Lady Jane Beshear visits with contest winners Jenna Howard, left, of Burnside Elementary School and Natalie Bolen of Pulaski Elementary School.

“Pulaski County is located in the second poorest congressional district in our country,” Coldiron said. “In order for education to solve some of our region’s challenges, we must begin with the basic essentials.

“By encouraging our students to read and expand their horizons,” he added, “we are building a firm foundation.”

Lonnie Lawson, president and CEO of The Center, agreed.

“Student success is a responsibility entire communities must embrace and take ownership of,” Lawson said. “We challenge educators, students, parents, and community leaders to address issues that are keeping their communities and residents from reaching their fullest potential.”

In April, Forward in the Fifth awarded Pulaski County schools $1,500 in grant funding to expand the “Ring The Bell for Literacy!” children’s reading program and establish the system as a member of its Local Education Affiliate Program (LEAP). As part of that designation, the system will work to provide ongoing solutions to some of the region’s top educational challenges.

“Today’s event further highlights the importance this county places on literacy for our young students,” Jim Tackett, executive director of Forward in the Fifth, said. “The ability to read and apply the knowledge gleaned is fundamental to advancing one’s educational achievement and quality of life.”

Kentucky's First Lady Jane Beshear and invited guests recognize contest winners.

Pulaski County Schools Supt. Steve Butcher expressed his appreciation to Coldiron and everyone else involved in planning Pulaski County Literacy Day.

“I am thrilled for our kids to have the opportunity to meet the First Lady and receive a reading book,” he said.

After privately meeting with educators, Beshear had lunch with the students and personally presented each of the 11 winners in school-sponsored contests with a copy of donated books.

As an added bonus, each child who reads the donated books, “Secret” by Pseudonymous Bosch or “The Tale of Desperaux” by Kate Dicamillo, and completes a book report prior to the end of the 2010-2011 school year will receive a coupon for a complimentary pizza from Somerset’s Donatos pizza.

Students also were encouraged to participate in various literacy-related events sponsored this summer by the Pulaski County Public Library and branch locations.

For more information on Forward in the Fifth, contact Jim Tackett at 606-677-6000 or email.