All Aboard Learning! 

- December 13, 2021 -

WORDS: Amy Treis
PICTURES: Whitney Patton

Reading Rainbow is an American educational children’s television seriesthat originally aired on  PBS from July 11, 1983, to November 10, 2006. This valuable show emphasized and encouraged children to dive into the world of reading. The show also educated the viewers on how to use a library to find these cherished books.  

If there is one constant throughout the decades, it is the high value placed on reading books. Literacy development is a vital gauge of success in school and life, and it often leads to a better, more balanced life. For this valuable reason, the School District of Manatee County and Manatee Libraries joined efforts to bring a treasure of reading resources and opportunities to families in Manatee County through the All-Access Pass. 

The All-Access Pass is an extraordinary initiative that will help students and families access the vast resources at the public library. The All-Access Pass is a partnership between Manatee County Public Library and the school district, giving all enrolled K-12 students access to public library resources with their Student ID number.   

By removing the physical barrier of coming to the library to get a card, this program expands resources to students in their homes, classrooms, and wherever they need access. As Christian Lauersen stated, “Libraries, in the past, the present, and the future, are the memory and workshop of humanity.” However, if the children cannot go to the library, the library can now be accessible through All-Access Pass. 

Successful implementation of the All-Access Pass on September 9, 2021, can be attributed to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. This beneficial collaboration between community foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states, and communities across the nation ensures that more children excel in school and graduate with the skills to flourish in college, a career, and society.  

Dr. Sheila Halpin is the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Coordinator for Manatee County Schools and has experience with Manatee County schools for 32 years. Dr. Halpin proudly states, “I have the opportunity to engage our community, mobilize to remove barriers, expand opportunities, and assist parents in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities to serve as full partners in the success of their children and to assure student success.” The most rewarding part of her job is empowering families with the skills and resources to be their child’s best teacher. 

Superintendent Cynthia Saunders also propelled the community to join forces and eliminate barriers that hindered some children from achieving grade-level reading by the end of third grade because their families did not have the support or resources to succeed. Research has shown that proficiency in reading by the end of third grade enables the students to move from learning to read to reading to learn and comprehend more intense subject matter. “This new partnership with Manatee County government will help broaden reading and learning opportunities for young families who live here now and for years to come,” she declared with sincere delight.

Manatee County Public Schools and the Manatee County Public Library support students’ ongoing education. We share the belief that a love of reading and learning is a cornerstone for student success and that equity in our community can be built through unrestricted access to information and resources. With these shared goals in mind, we worked together to ensure that every Manatee County student has access to books and resources found at both their school and public libraries. 

The All-Access Pass will allow students to check out books and other materials in the library. Still, it will also give them access to so much more because students will be able to access an amazing array of digital resources with their Student ID card number. County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said, “students will have access to much more than just books. They can take advantage of one-on-one tutoring through Tutor.com, the opportunity to practice languages using the Mango app, and access to LinkedIn Learning, which helps students develop computer, career and literacy skills.” 

Student ID numbers will also give students access to downloadable eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies, music, and magazines. Elementary students’ ID numbers can be found in the FOCUS parent portal located at www.manateeschools.net/focus. Middle & High School students may scan their ID badges or enter their numbers manually at the library or online.

An important thing to also consider is that learning is not exclusive to reading books. Richard Branson proudly appreciates how expertise comes from exploring the world. He has stated, “The best way of learning about anything is by doing.” Another valuable component of the All-Access Pass is that it permits students to explore interests and hobbies by checking out items from the Library of Things, which includes telescopes, musical instruments, literacy kits, and museum passes.  

These are instigators to discover all the world has to offer outside of school. Wonder, excitement, and dreams amplify in the hearts of the students when subjects are presented in a fun and encouraging format. This is also a way for them to connect to other students with common interests, who they might not normally meet in their own schools. Through a variety of Kids and Teen programs in the community, their people skills will develop as well.  

Dr. Sheila Halpin is extremely humbled by the generosity and actions of the community and all those that brought forth the institution of All-Access Pass. She expresses, “Collectively; our community is working to improve school and life outcomes for children from low-income families by getting more kids to read proficiently.” She further expands her dedication to the children through her involvement with the Soar in 4 program.  

Soar in 4 empowers families to be their child’s first literacy teacher by providing monthly play and learn opportunities where families receive materials to support their child’s literacy development at home. As a past teacher, counselor, and administrator with her doctorate in education, Dr. Halpin embraced the need of students and saw these programs to ascend new levels of prosperity. Dedication and perseverance towards achieving one’s goals can best be mirrored in the minds of children when they are blessed with the tools and techniques to do the same. There is a rainbow of possibilities with the embrace of the All-Access Pass. 

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