CAIRO — The Grady County School District is slated to received more than $5.7 million in state grants over the next five years to help improve student literacy learning from birth.

The Georgia Department of Education announced last week that it will be awarding more than $22 million in Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) grants to 23 school districts, with Grady County among the recipients. The department said the goal of the grants, first introduced in 2016, is to improve student literacy learning.

Grady County Superintendent Kermit Gilliard said the school district plans on hiring a new “birth-5 coordinator” who will work with families in their homes to help with reading activities for children and also teach parents what they can do to further their child’s education.

“We see so many kids coming into school in either pre-K or kindergarten and they’re already behind,” Gilliard said. “We want to do everything we can to get them caught up before they get to school.”

Previously the county did not deal with children until they began their formal education in preschool or kindergarten. With the new grant, Gilliard said the school district will now be able to work on reading and literacy skills from birth all the way through high school.

“We want to see if we can take it down and bring improvements,” he said.

A total of more than $1.14 million in grant money will be distributed to the county each year for the next five years to fund the effort.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods said he’s eager to see progress made in the coming years by the new grant recipients.

“Making sure students are reading on grade-level remains mission-critical, top-priority work for the Georgia Department of Education and we continue to seek all possible opportunities to support that work at the school and district level,” he said in a DOE press release.

Awards take into account the poverty level of a community, the percentage of students reading below grade level, the recent rate of growth in the number of students reading above grade level and whether a school is identified for support from DOE’s School Improvement team, according to the GDOE.

Instructional coordinator Janet Walden wrote the grant for the county school district earlier this year.

The new L4GA grants mark the second round of funding. Woods said the 38 school districts selected for the first round of L4GA funding four years ago already have made “great strides” in student literacy learning.

DOE plans to run another grant competition later this year to award additional funds.

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