Flint, MI—Superintendent of Flint Community Schools Anita Steward announced Wednesday the district was selected by the Michigan Department of Education for a $3 million grant to help build literacy skills for Flint students. 

The grant is offered through the Michigan Department of Education and will be dispersed over a five-year period. Flint Schools must use the funds to advance literacy skills. 

“With the support of this grant, Flint Community Schools will bolster early childhood, upper elementary, and secondary programs; establish greater community and family partnerships; support the transition into our Great Start Readiness Program; and provide parents with additional resources to participate in their child’s learning,” Steward said. 

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Kevelin Jones presented the FCS Winter 2021 DIBELS testing scores, a test designed to assess early literacy skills in K-8 grade levels. 

DIBELS Scores for all elementary schools (Courtesy of Flint Community Schools).

Districtwide, only16.8% of K-third graders tested at or above benchmark goals, or met the criterion for adequate reading progress. 

“This has been discussed with principals, their leadership team, and their teachers to evaluate where we are, what’s working and what’s not, and what can we do during this time to improve those scores before the end of the year,” Jones said. 

Third grade teacher at Pierce Elementary Valerie Marshall said low reading levels may also be due to Flint’s “book desert.”  

“Parents don’t just go pick up a book. They don’t go to the library,” Marshall said, adding that while reading virtually can be beneficial, it is critical for children to have physical access to books early on. 

With the help of the grant, the district is getting books to as many students as possible, Marshall said.  

“We’re cleaning out cupboards… any book is better than no book. For myself growing up, we had books all the time…Students now aren’t getting that,” she said. 

In addition to Flint Schools, Benton Harbor Area Schools, Detroit Public Schools Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, and the Pontiac School District were selected for $3 million literacy grants. 

The districts will participate in an educational and professional development literacy network to help improve their students’ literacy outcomes. The program places a focus the unique needs of high-poverty school districts and the children they serve. 

“It is very important to us for them to have a fighting chance and successful futures. Books is the way to do that,” Marshall said. 

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...