By Emily Williams
Test scores from 2018 show that 74% of Birmingham City Schools third grade students are reading below their grade level, according to the Alabama State Department of Education.
Better Basics, a Birmingham-based children’s literacy nonprofit, is seeking to change those numbers by promoting a love for literacy, as well as other areas of study.
With its signature fundraiser, “Love for Literacy,” a gala being held Feb. 15, the organization raises money to help provide academic intervention and enrichment programs for struggling kids, from birth to 12th grade, in low-income communities.
“In the 2018-19 school year, we served 23,288 students,” said Alisa Boone, Better Basics director of development and public relations.
The program also that year involved more than 1,000 volunteers who helped take programming to students from 36 schools across Central Alabama, and 47,143 books were given to kids.
Serving up “a better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” the sixth annual gala will be at Regions Field Ballroom and Club Lounge. Money raised will help the organization continue to provide literacy programming, as well as expand its intervention and enrichment programs.
The Department of Education also found that, in mathematics, 66% of third graders function below grade level. In response, Better Basics began piloting a math program last spring.
“This school year, we are introducing mathematics intervention, expanding our Summer Brain Gain program to more sites, students and community partners and (expanding) the Hope 21st Century Learning Centers to all Fairfield City School system schools,” Boone said. “In addition to the existing Birmingham Reads and Fairfield Reads days, we are adding Midfield Reads Day to our community-wide, read-aloud events.”
Literacy programs are being expanded in response to the Alabama Literacy Act, signed in May 2019 and effective for the 2021-22 school year. The law will require that all students read at or above their grade level by the end of third grade or they will be held back a grade.
The success of 2019 and new projects will be celebrated at the gala, hosted by WVTM meteorologist Stephanie Walker and anchor Eunice Walker. Festivities will include live music, a silent auction and games, including a wine pull, bourbon toss and ring bling.
After a cocktail hour and seated dinner, a program will feature inspirational guest speaker Lt. Col. Lacy Gunnoe, a Birmingham resident who “came from humble beginnings in Appalachia.”
The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and tickets are $150, or $200 for VIP status.
For more information, visit literacy2020.givesmart.com or betterbasics.org/events.