Wednesday morning brought a cool breeze and beautiful weather as Hope School District hosted the weekly Community Coffee. This week’s venue was The Hub in downtown Hope, and several volunteers from the school were in attendance to speak with visitors about building a community of readers.
Carla Narlesky, who is organizing a program called RISE (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) Community, had a table set up where people from Hope could sign Reading Pledges to show their support for a more well-read Hope. Through the pledges, Narlesky hopes to get more than 1,000 signees who want to establish a culture of readership in Hope.
Narlesky, through a grant with the SOAR (Successful Outcomes for Arkansas Readers) program, has set up several Book Nooks around town. These nooks, placed in local businesses, provide free-use books for young readers. Four businesses have already signed on (Piggly Wiggly, Super One Foods, Hebrews 11:1, and El Agaves), and she hopes for many more.
“I’ve already got shelves set aside for twenty locations. That’s the goal I’m working towards right now,” Narlesky said. “If you’re in line at the grocery store, and your child wants something to keep them occupied, reach for a book. If they don’t finish it in line and want to take it with them, go ahead.”
Narlesky is dedicated to building reading habits in the community. In addition to the Book Nooks, the grant also allows the school to order free books for students. 9-12 graders can fill out a form for book requests through Narlesky, who said that last year alone the program ordered almost 2,000 books for students.
Also in attendance at the coffee was Hope’s new superintendent Johnathon Crossley. Crossley was the assistant superintendent in Pine Bluff, and taught high school English, Public Speaking, Drama, and coached basketball at Palestine-Wheatley High School earlier in his career. He was state-wide teacher of the year at one time and traveled the state and country and served on the State Board of Education.
“I love Hope. There’s a lot of great opportunities here. It has a great small-town vibe and big ideas, and that’s what I love,” Crossley said.
Crossley said he wants to invest in students as early as possible, settling them up for future success. There’s a lot of educational opportunities happening in Hope, he said, to get students from primary school up through college. He said that, in the next three to four years, he’d love to see more Hope students achieving academic success not just at the High School, but succeeding with college degrees as well.
When asked about the upcoming Hope-Prescott game Friday night, Crossley said, “I think we’re going to win, 34-28. The Bobcats will feel good about that. Our coaching staff is prepared, they’re ready. We have good athletes on the field and our offense is starting to click. I’m excited about it.”
He mentioned that at 6:30 p.m. Friday night there will be a Hall of Fame induction before the game, and a vaccination clinic will be held outside the stadium starting at 6 p.m.
Those interested in signing a reading pledge, or businesses who want to request a Book Nook can contact Carla Narlesky at [email protected] with their name and email.