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Appalachia Reads Center launches Web site, executes video conference series

ATHENS, Ohio (April 14, 2004) -- The Appalachia Reads Center, created by two-year grant from the Verizon Foundation and the Appalachia Regional Commission (ARC), has recently launched both its Web site and its first regional video conference series.

Both of these events mark the fulfillment of grant initiatives. The center, housed in the College of Communication at Ohio University, serves the 29 Appalachian counties of Ohio. The goals of the Center are to establish a network of community-based literacy programs across the 29-county Appalachian Region working in partnership to make services efficient and effective; to improve access to literacy programs by increasing awareness of existing programs and services; and to coordinate literacy initiatives and maximize the use of literacy services and resources.

The Web site, located at www.appalachiareads.org, is the culmination of months of planning, research and database management. The site includes information on the center, literacy, grant writing and events, as well as a message board, a resources link and a quarterly newsletter.

Perhaps the most important resource on the Web site is a directory listing nearly 700 identified community-based literacy programs, schools, adult education and career centers and libraries in the 29-county region. This directory will provide existing programs with one of the tools they say is needed most: the ability to network.

"When we held the Appalachia Reads regional meetings in August, literacy service providers told me they needed training, funding and networking," said Danielle Hopson, Appalachia Reads Center director. "We heard some of these same things when the preliminary survey for the Center was completed, but I needed to make sure we had a match between what the survey said and what was actually needed."

Hopson, who has been on board with the center since its inception in July 2003, depends on a steering committee made up of seven literacy officials with whom she meets monthly. The past eight months have given Hopson the opportunity to make a name for herself and the Center with many regional literacy administrators, and she now plans to meet and identify with some of the grassroots literacy program providers who may be dealing with the greatest challenges.

"I want people to know who I am and what I am doing," Hopson said. "I'm building relationships with the providers with whom I am collaborating. People have been very supportive."

In addition to the site's launch, Hopson has been busy organizing three regional video conferences. Conference sites include all six of the Ohio University campuses in the identified Appalachia region of Ohio. These campuses are in Athens, St. Clairsville, Pickerington, Zanesville, Chillicothe and Ironton.

The first conference, which took place March 23, focused on grant writing. The next, planned for Friday, April 23, will focus on "Parent and Family Partnerships," and a May 14 "Volunteer Recruitment, Retention and Training" conference is also on the horizon. Each of the three conferences is free to literacy service providers in the center's coverage area and includes lunch. For more information on the free video conferences, please visit www.appalachiareads.org/eve.asp.  

Hopson, who most recently lived in Grand Rapids, Mich., said she has had to educate herself on the state of literacy in Appalachia, where the means to promote literacy face challenges due to lack of funding and poverty issues.

Though Hopson realizes there are many challenges ahead for the Appalachia Reads Center and the many literacy programs in the region, she feels the need to acquire books is paramount.

"From both the survey results and the regional meetings, I have found what we need most is books," Hopson said. "One of our goals should be to raise money to get books and to promote reading."

Hopson is already working on this initiative. In fact, as a member of the National Alliance of Urban Literacy Coalitions (NAULC), Hopson was able to secure 800 books from Scholastic Books. Later this spring, she plans to donate 500 of those books to Kids on Campus and reserve 300 for provider network meetings. This donation comes on the heels of 300 books donated to the center by Half-Price Books last year.

As Hopson works hard to further the realization of the Center's goals, she continues to learn from the administrators of literacy programs across the country, some of which who have been fighting for literacy awareness for several decades.

"My niche as a literacy network director in Appalachia is different," Hopson said. "I'm still working to find it."

To find out more about the Appalachia Reads Center or about how you can help as an advocate or donor, please visit the new Web site at www.appalachiareads.org.

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Media Contact: College of Communication External Relations Coordinator Erin Roberts, (740) 593-0030 or erin.j.roberts.1@ohio.edu

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