Clay County, Kentucky, is the fourth poorest county in the country. And its rural students can read.

That wasn’t true ten years ago. Reading scores were dismal. Toyota had rejected Clay County as a site for a new manufacturing plant because scores were so low. Then the county went through a reading revolution, a story recounted by the Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader’s Amy Wilson. There was no trick to what happened in the Eastern Kentucky county. Essentially, the community decided to make reading important. The school threw parties. Teachers tried every reading program under the sun. Tutors poured into schools. And the school tested (and tested) to make sure kids were learning.

Clay County changed a culture. And the reading scores went from well below the state average to well above. All scores have gone up, in fact, and discipline problems are down, even in troublesome middle school. And now when you ask kids what they are going to do in the afternoon, they say they are “goin’ home to read.”

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.