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Hot Spots for literacy

Start looking for Hot Spots around town.
People at Rowan County’s first Literacy Summit last week learned work is already under way outside the schools to boost local reading abilities. That starts with Hot Spots, sites where area students can tap the Internet wirelessly with their new digital devices. The schools have put new laptops in the hands of all teachers and high school students. This program will help bridge the digital divide between those who have Internet access at home and those who do not.
But this is more than an Internet connection. Ideally, Hot Spots will offer students a secure place to do homework, get tutoring and have an after-school snack — a school away from school and a home away from home.
Can Rowan County come up with 100 of these academic and digital havens — and volunteers to man them? It’s an ambitious goal, and the need is great. Our students are lagging way behind their peers in the state. Only an extraordinary communitywide effort can change that.
Before announcing the Hot Spot initiative publicly, the people behind this initiative already had 20 confirmed sites, and the list will grow as the idea rolls out across the county. Some of the sites are no-brainers: public libraries, park and recreation centers, schools. The faith community is getting on board, with St. John’s Lutheran Church and the Chestnut Hill Church Consortium making commitments. Also on board are Rowan Helping Ministries, Russell Smyre’s day care centers and Karen Alexander’s Heritage Room.
The Gateway partners who helped put the summit together include the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, RowanWorks Economic Development, Salisbury-Rowan County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Downtown Salisbury Inc. and The Land Trust for Central North Carolina. Local education leaders were the real catalysts — the top people from Rowan-Salisbury, Catawba College, Hood Theological Seminary, Livingstone College and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. They’re leading by example, working together.
Dr. Lynn Moody, superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, called this a call to action. Literacy is literally first in the schools, with elementary classes spending 120-150 minutes a day reading, she said. It needs to be first in the community too, with adults everywhere reminding youngsters to read. And write. And speak clearly. This is not about raising bookworms. It’s about shaping young people to be able to comprehend what comes their way and communicate effectively as they move into the world of work. If they are successful, Rowan County will be successful.

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