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School of Education receives reading grant for Hoke Schools

April 1, 2009

A federal grant totaling nearly $300,000 will help The University of North Carolina at Pembroke lift reading and writing skills among pupils attending Hoke County Schools.


Betty Brown

Titled “Leading and Literacy Communities-Reading,” the 18-month project will train Hoke middle and high school teachers to incorporate reading and writing across the curriculum.

UNCP’s Dr. Betty Wells Brown, a reading professor and associate dean for academics, received notification through UNC General Administration in March of the successful grant award from the U.S. Department of Education.

“This is good news, and the School of Education and Hoke County Schools are excited about it,” Dr. Brown said. “I have been working on this project for two years, but it required the efforts of individuals across campus and across county lines.”

Planning has already started, Dr. Brown said, and a team of UNCP faculty members will begin professional development workshops with 30 Hoke County teachers in July. The project provides follow-up during the 2009-10 school year and additional workshops the following summer.


Cynthia Miecznikowski


Heather Kimberly Dial


Valjeaner Ford


Nancy Cerezo

“The state has designated Hoke as an area of high need, and they are right in our backyard,” Dr. Brown said. “The School of Education does a substantial amount of service work in our region and with the Hoke County Schools.”

Teachers in content areas of English, mathematics, science and social studies will be selected to join the program.

“Teachers keep telling me, ‘help, my students can’t read!’” Dr. Brown said. “When there is a deficit in reading, it becomes more apparent in the middle school, and teachers in science, math and social studies are only required for certification to take one or two reading classes.

“We believe reading and writing must be part of the curriculum across the content areas, and that is why this program is so important,” she said.

The program provides benefits for all the groups involved. “Hoke County teachers get quality professional development and travel opportunities at a time when budgets are tight,” Dr. Brown said.

Hoke County teachers will learn more about opportunities for continuing their education at UNCP. The schools will benefit through improved teacher retention.

Students are the ultimate beneficiaries.

“Reading and writing are essential for teacher preparation and students in the 21st century,” Dr. Brown said. “These are critical skills for college.”

The project will focus on intervention for low-performing students, and building teacher-leaders to assist other teachers. Teachers who have participated in the professional development activities will become peer leaders in literacy within their content areas.

“The program will also develop a model for other programs across North Carolina,” Dr. Brown said.

“Hoke County Schools present a unique opportunity for study because of their size,” she said. “There are two middle schools and one high school in the school system.”

Participating in the project for UNCP are Dr. Cynthia Miecznikowski of the English Department and education faculty members: Dr. Heather Kimberly Dial, Dr. Valjeaner Ford and Dr. Nancy Cerezo.

For Hoke County Schools, Patricia Cox, districtliteracy coach, and Michelle Benson, an instructional alignment specialist, participated in the grant application and planning.

For more information about Leading and Literacy Communities-Reading, please contact Dr. Brown at 910.521.6856 or email