MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Fourth graders in Marion County Public Schools are getting an extra incentive to read.
The Black Stallion Reading Project is a partnership between MCPS and the Ocala Horse Alliance. It’s a revamped version of what was previously known as The Black Stallion Literacy Project.
Kris Lyon, MCPS coordinator for elementary curriculum, said the new program is aligned with Florida state standards. Every fourth grader in the program receives their own copy of “The Black Stallion” to keep, as well as a journal.
Lyon said local farms “adopt” students and as they transition into a new school year, the goal is to have field trips to farms to learn more about the equine industry. Lyon said this is part of a “future-focused” approach to getting students thinking about careers.
“Being able to make that true connection is so very powerful to just inspire and believe what is possible in your life, and understand that reading can take you places you might never be able to go,” she said. “Being able to connect our students, homegrown, with our businesses and with our industry here in Marion County is just critical.”
A fun part of the project is when horses deliver books to the students. Lyon said after students read the book, teachers encourage discussion.
“The students were able to engage in collaborative discussion, have discussion and book talk, and talk about the rich vocabulary facilitated with the teacher and really just enjoy good literature. It was so heartwarming to see the impact just short term on them and in connecting to good literature,” she said.
At the end of the program, each student earns their very own horseshoe. Lyon said the hope for the 2021-2022 school year is to have a grand celebration horse show at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala.