Next month, Ferst Readers of Tallapoosa County is hosting its third annual Fish for Ferst Bass Tournament fundraiser.
Proceeds from the tournament go toward Ferst Readers of Tallapoosa County (FRTC) and the all-volunteer Community Action Team’s (CAT) literacy efforts, sending kids a free book a month from birth to age 5.
"The only thing that limits us is the amount of money that we can raise," FRTC volunteer Melinda Walters said. "Once we get more money we can sign up a bunch more kids."
FRTC is one of many local chapters of Ferst Readers, a national organization based out of Georgia, but according to Walters is currently the only chapter in the state.
"We are the only ones in Alabama right now," she said. "Russell County is getting ready to start one."
According to its website, "Ferst Readers was founded in 1999 to address the growing problem of children, many from from low-income communities, entering kindergarten without basic early literacy skills and school readiness, a preventable problem that has far-reaching impacts throughout students’ lives."
FRTC zeroes in on the children of Tallapoosa County. According to a 2020-2021 Tallapoosa County Schools report, only 16% of kids show up to kindergarten ready to read, a figure FRTC hopes to improve by sending out not just books but support materials the parents can use to help teach their kids to read.
"We have a Facebook page that sends out lots and lots of activities to the parents who are registered for it," Walters said. "When the virus restrictions lift, we plan on doing parent education as well."
Subscriptions cost $36 a year and are paid by FRTC donors and sponsors, keeping the program free for the parents. In its two and a half years of existence, FRTC has provided more than 11,000 books. About 400 children in Tallapoosa County are currently registered, Walters said, and will age out at age 5.
"We appreciate all the businesses and community members that are sponsors and also that make donations," Walters said.
The Fish for First Bass Tournament will launch from the Wind Creek State Park boat ramp on May 15 at 5:15 a.m. Weigh-in is at 3 p.m. Participants can register online at ogstournaments.org or on site starting at 4 a.m. the day of.