Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Becky Covington, director of early learning for the Hamilton County Schools, hands out book bags to East Brainerd Elementary students in June as the Governor's Early Literacy Foundation continued its K-3 summer book delivery program.

A new statewide early literacy initiative and Hamilton County Schools literacy event will provide resources to students and families in Hamilton County.

Hamilton County Schools will hold its first Family Literacy Festival on Nov. 6 from 9 a.m.-noon at Collegedale Commons and 2-5 p.m. at Harris Johnson Park.

The event will provide free resources and learning activities for parents to support early literacy at home for K-5 students and children up to age 5, said Hamilton County Schools Literacy Officer Breckan Duckworth.

In particular, the district aims to reach K-5 students who struggled on a fall reading evaluation, one of three administered to students each school year.

There are between 18,000 and 20,000 K-5 students in the district, Duckworth said, and about 6,500 letters were sent home to families of students who performed within the 25th percentile on the assessment.

"It is open to anyone to come to this event, but those are the students and the families that we're really going to try to target and hope that we can get there are parents who received these home literacy letters earlier this year," Duckworth said by phone on Tuesday.

About 1 in 3 students read on grade level in Tennessee, and data from the 2021 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program exam for third grade English language arts show a statewide average of 32% proficiency compared to 38% proficiency on the exam in 2019.

Hamilton County Schools saw an increase in the third grade English language arts proficiency on the exam from 35.6% in 2019 to 36.2% in 2021, about 4 percentage points above the statewide average.

Meanwhile, at the state level, the Governor's Early Literacy Foundation (GELF) has announced the first Educator Advisory Council, made up of 21 educators and school district officials across Tennessee.

Southeast Tennessee educators on the council include Tara Comerford, a third grade teacher in Athens City Schools and Taylor Harvey, a librarian in Hamilton County Schools.

The group will choose books that the foundation will mail home next summer through its K-3 book delivery program.

"Educators play the biggest part of our future generation's story," James Pond, president of GELF, said in a news release. "Governor's Early Literacy Foundation is honored to recognize their role, learn from their experience and hear from their perspective to gain a better understanding of what our students need to become successful readers and future leaders. Together, we will work together to combat learning loss and strengthen early literacy."

In summer 2021, the second year of the program, the organization sent packs containing six books to 10,300 K-3 students and 200 first grade teachers in Hamilton County Schools.

Contact Anika Chaturvedi at or 423-757-6592.