Literacy backpack program reaching students before kindergarten

Floyd County backpacks include books, alphabet and number cards, go fish

FLOYD COUNTY, Va. – A local school district is trying something new to help families teach children before they get to kindergarten.

"This is a critical time. This is where we need to invest a lot of the resources that we have in those families and at that age," said Dr. John Wheeler, the Floyd County School superintendent.

The school system has new literacy backpacks that include well-known books, alphabet and number cards, go fish, colors and shapes, foam letters and numbers, and a drawing board. The bags go to all students who aren't in kindergarten yet in pre-K and Head Start classes, as well as families they find through the Department of Social Services and nonprofits.  Parents get a sheet of activities to do with their kids.

"I always say this is better than any 529 plan that you're going to start for your child. If you can start them reading, communicating and interacting with these resources, they're going to have a great start to their academic learning and their social learning," said Wheeler.

"We just feel like nowadays a lot of the focus is on technology and video games and we really want to get some concrete, hands-on activities that the kids can use to have in their home to learn with," said Annette Craighead, who has already seen the literacy backpacks pay off in her Check Elementary preschool classroom. "This class really loves literacy and really loves books. They're really excited. They will listen to stories very well. They're excited to attend our library here in check and check out books."

It's also building a relationship with families before they even get to school.

"We feel like the earlier we can get them exposed to reading and activities in the home the better we're going to see the children progress when they get to kindergarten," said Craighead.

So far, Floyd County has given out 88 backpacks. Some were paid for by the school system, but businesses have donated too. Each backpack costs $83 to create and they're looking for grants to help pay for the program too.

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