‘The Phonebook’ spreads literacy through Middlesboro Independent Schools

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, July 3, 2024

By Rian Johnson

For the Middlesboro News


Middlesboro Independent School District, in partnership with Partners for Rural Impact’s Innovative Approaches to Literacy program, is utilizing a unique telephone-based storytelling platform. This initiative, conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to provide accessible literary resources to students and community members, fostering a love for reading and enhancing literacy skills.

Middlesboro is the only school in the nation to use this platform, which is typically employed by libraries. The platform allows students from various grade levels to record and share stories, which can then be accessed by younger students through a simple phone call. This innovative approach not only promotes literacy but also encourages community building and mentorship among students.

Brandy King, IAL’s Literacy Coach at Middlesboro Middle School and High School, has been responsible for coordinating the efforts of the program, which they call “The Phonebook.”

“The kids really enjoy doing it,” said King. “They have a great time recording their stories, and it’s amazing to see their excitement and engagement. It’s incredibly rewarding to witness their growth and creativity.”

Lori Bowen Ayre, Owner of The Galecia Group​ and the program’s developer, emphasizes the flexibility and potential of the platform.

“Originally, we developed this platform because libraries were closed during COVID and couldn’t provide access to books,” said Ayre.. “Our tools are flexible enough that people can use them in various creative ways. It has been thrilling to see how Middlesboro has adapted this resource to fit their needs.”

According to IAL’s Project Director, Doug Coots, the program has seen considerable success, with students from different age groups participating.

“During the 2023-24 school year, we recorded and uploaded approximately 40 books into the system,” said Coots. “And we have averaged 100 callers each month.”

The program has had students from different school groups including athletes, band members, and academic organizations from the middle and high school record books and then promoted them using yard signs throughout the community, sending text messages to families in the districts, and setting up at community events.

“One project we are excited about is having the 2024 senior students who wrote children’s books for their English class, contact us so we can help them record these stories,” said King. “This way, the books they wrote will be recorded and stored in the database, allowing us to share them with our community for years to come. This initiative not only nurtures the storytelling skills of the seniors but also provides entertaining and educational content for younger students.”

Ayre noted that the success of this program has sparked interest in expanding it to other schools and communities, showcasing the potential impact of integrating technology and creativity in education.

“The collaboration has been incredible,” said Ayre. “It’s like seeing our dreams come true as Middlesboro uses this platform in such an innovative way. Due to the overwhelming success of their program, we’ve introduced a new platform specifically for schools, called Partnering with Schools.”

Middlesboro Independent School District and Partners for Rural Impact are hopeful that this initiative will inspire other schools to adopt similar programs, enhancing literacy and fostering community engagement across the region.

If you are a 2024 senior who would like to record your book, contact Brand King at brandy.king@mboro.kyschools.us.

To listen to The Phonebook, call (606) 752-0353.