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HUNTINGTON — With the help of the Cabell County Public Library, local school administrators are making a point to get every middle and high school student in the district a library card.

The “Unlock Your Potential” campaign officially launched Feb. 2 during the regular meeting of the Cabell County Board of Education and will allow both students and staff access to the library’s learning and enrichment resources.

“Our district staff is beyond excited about the ‘Unlock Your Potential’ campaign,” Superintendent Ryan Saxe said. “We challenge all of our students and their parents or guardians to sign up for a library card as soon as possible so they can begin reading and exploring.”

Once registered, library cards can be used to access scholarly databases and to virtually “borrow” text and audiobooks from the library through the Libby and Hoopla apps. In addition, the library is providing Cabell County students free access to Tutor.com, a website that offers virtual tutoring during after-school hours.

Library Director Judy Rule said the campaign was a perfect fit for the library’s long-term goal of improving educational performance in schools across the district.

Academic specialists Kirstin Sobotka and Hunter Roush explained to the board members the origin of the plan, knowing some students would lack resources normally available in schools as learning was shifted from in-person to remote for an extended period of time.

The unknowns of the situation were daunting, but they entered the year with a goal to launch before the academic year ended, and they met that goal with a few months to spare.

“I think it’s huge … with these kids getting their own devices at the beginning of the year, it was the next natural step to give them more access to resources on those devices,” Sobotka said.

But “Unlock Your Potential” isn’t just about providing the resources to students, but also about helping them develop a passion for reading that benefits them in more ways than one.

“Reading for pleasure relieves stress, expands vocabulary, develops empathy and sharpens critical thinking skills. Our hope is that, with experience, our students will seek out books and other resources that align with their interests and help develop a lifelong passion for reading,” said Roush.

Both Roush and Sobotka credited Cabell County’s 1:1 device initiative, which gave each student access to an iPad or MacBook Pro computer, serving as a tool to help close equity gaps made increasingly apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sobotka added that if a middle school or high school student already has a library card, they are encouraged to sign up again through the online digital form, which will be made available on the district’s website, cabellschools.com, when the program officially opens to students later this month.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @HDcreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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