NC superintendent announces reading program, new early learning position

Posted April 3, 2017 4:56 p.m. EDT
Updated April 3, 2017 8:23 p.m. EDT

North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson reads his daughter's favorite book, "The Book with No Pictures," to students at East Garner Elementary School on April 3, 2017.

— North Carolina Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson unveiled a statewide reading initiative Monday called NC Reads, which will focus on giving young students more access to books, even during the summer.

The program replaces the state's prior reading program, Give Five – Read Five, which was created in 2013.

One major difference is Johnson hopes to create a new position – assistant superintendent for early education – to assist the program and focus on the state's youngest learners.

Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, appeared with Johnson at East Garner Elementary School on Monday, where the new reading program was announced, and said he planned to file a bill to create the new early learning position.

If approved, the new assistant superintendent would "really focus on best practices for early childhood education," Johnson said, and allow the state to "study it, find out what works best and present those back and really start to tackle early childhood."

Johnson said he wants his new NC Reads program to focus on three areas:

  • Collect books, and funds for books, to donate to preschoolers and students for summer reading
  • Distribute free subscriptions for every student in K-5 to myON, which provides each user with a personalized literacy environment
  • Develop the NC Reads online resource to seamlessly connect volunteers, donors and stakeholders to literacy efforts and programs across North Carolina.

"Every student needs access to books at home," Johnson said. "NC Reads highlights literacy programs and connects donors and volunteers to local opportunities to support literacy."

Former State Superintendent June Atkinson, who lost to Johnson in November's election and has been critical of him, praised the reading announcement Monday.

Monday's event marked one of the first detailed priorities Johnson has revealed since becoming state superintendent in January. He has spent much of his time traveling around North Carolina on a statewide listening tour, meeting with department staff and speaking about his three guiding principles – urgency, ownership and innovation.