Boonville Elementary School students were talking to horses last week.
No, it wasn’t a reenactment of an episode of Mr. Ed. It was a collaboration of several Boonville organizations to increase literacy among elementary school students.
The Horse Tales Literacy Project began in 1999 in Kissimmee, Fla. The project focuses on putting books into the hands of first and fourth graders while also connecting children to horses.
“Several years ago I started researching a project that was originally called the Black Stallion Literacy Project. It was to promote reading and enhance what was going on in schools and also to encourage children that did not have a love for reading to open up books and read,” said Ginny Stammetti, director of the college and career readiness program at Surry Community College.
Stammetti said that when she first learned about the program, they had to travel to Florida to train. Over the years that policy changed, and Stammetti saw an opportunity to bring it to North Carolina.
“One of the things that really made me interested in this project was the fact that for many years I was a reading specialist with Boonville Elementary School,” Stammetti said. “In my current position at Surry Community College we still have a lot of adult learners that are struggling readers so we would like to instill a love of reading at a young age and encourage children so that they don’t have to struggle as hard as they get older.”
The first and fourth grade classes at Boonville Elementary are the first students that have taken part in this program in North Carolina. The program is a partnership between Boonville Elementary, Friends of the Boonville Public Library, Astoria Limited Equestrian Center and Surry Community College.
“We went to the school a month ago and introduced them to horses that were identical to two of the characters in their book; Little Black the pony and Big Red,” Stammetti said. “At that time the children were given their first book and they were challenged to read that book, follow their teacher’s directions, finish all the projects and when they did that in a month they could come out and visit at Astoria.”
First graders were given the book “Little Black, A Pony.” Fourth graders were given “The Black Stallion,” and their teachers were provided with the film for their classroom.
The classes completed their assignments for the project and were allowed to visit Astoria on April 12. Stations were set up for the students to learn about farriers, grooming and tack. The main focus of the event, however, was that students were allowed to read from a second book given to them that day.
First graders were given “Little Black Goes to the Circus,” and fourth graders were given a “Hoofprints” magazine, which included several articles and a removable poster.
“The kids were just ecstatic. I think it’s been a real highlight for them and it’s given them something to work towards,” Stammetti said. “The staff and the school system have just been great to work with.”
The program required that all of the classes had to read the books provided to them during the first phase of the project. Teachers were provided with a 146-page curriculum that ties the book into math, science, social studies and reading with each chapter that the children read.
Stammetti said that the program was a success and that she hopes to see other schools that want to get their students involved. She also plans to implement the program with members of her classes at Surry Community College.
“It’s an awesome program and I’m going to implement it with several programs that I have at the college,” Stammetti said. “I hope that we’ll get some interest with our students reading. Even our students that we have who are great readers have not read “The Black Stallion.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.