NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville nonprofit Corner To Corner's literacy program aims to bridge the literacy gap in Davidson County students through its Script To Screen program.
The program culminates with a red carpet premiere of the student's films — with the next one set for May 12.
When Script To Screen Program Director Bethany Burney finishes her job as a first grade teacher at Metro Public Schools, she goes to one of five aftercare programs at Metro middle and high schools to lead the Script To Screen program.
"[We do] twelve lessons that we go through and it just builds up. Lesson one, of course, teaches them, you know, what a script is, and it comes out it goes all the way up into, you know how to film," explains Burney.
The goal of helping the students develop a film in the aftercare program is to improve their literacy.
"They are needing, like, a little bit more support in like reading, maybe they need more support in writing, or just more support with being able to come out of their shell a lot more when it comes to reading and writing," Burney explained.
From 2018 to 2021, in Davidson County alone less than half of students in fourth grade through eighth grade were reading at a proficient level. While some of the gap was attributed to the learning challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, the literacy gap has been an issue in Nashville for decades.
When looking at large city data, the proficiency reading score in the U.S. is an average of 27%. Examples of large cities that have data comparable in size to Nashville are as follows: Shelby County (Memphis) - 19%, Fresno, CA - 17%, Charlotte-Mecklenburg (Charlotte, NC) - 39%, Duval County, FL (Jacksonville) - 35%.
In the 2022 spring semester, the students in the Script To Screen program started by watching the movie "Inside Out."
"They went through 'Inside Out,' and they learned the different parts of a script," explained Burney. "And then after learning the different parts of a script, that is when we told them, like, you know, ‘This is what it would look like when you guys create your own script.’ And so we go from that to talking about the plot diagram. And we go from that, to starting to, like, think about what type of characters we want, or what type of film do we want, what what type of genre are, we kind of like be writing about. And so it just builds on from there."
Students participate voluntarily and so far, the program has not needed to limit the number of participants at each school.
"Just getting the courage to just talk, you know, talk in front of a crowd, read what you have written in front of a crowd," said Burney. "Because, you know, even like, during their part, where they're like creating their characters, we asked them to share... 'What's your character's name? What is your character doing? What's going on with his character?' And they have to share that in front of their peers."
It is an effort to distract kids from a subject they might dread studying.
"It's happening without them knowing," Burney explained.
Fourth grader Ethan Dejesus explained, "They taught us about different things. They showed us some words like ‘script,’ ‘camera angle,’ ‘wide angle,’ ‘medium angle,’ ‘close up.’ And then and then we started to work with the cameras. Took pictures of our friends. And then we started to make the script. And then it's–we were making the movie."
Organizers at Corner To Corner said, "In the Summer of 2021, we worked with Dr. Emily Pendergrass from Vanderbilt University to generate data reflecting reading growth. In a pilot sample size, we found 55% of participants grew at least one grade level of reading over the course of our program."
The study found students' enjoyment of reading, reading confidence and understanding of the value of reading all improved.
"Before we did the first day of script to screen, I was nervous. And now and I think it's fun," Dejesus said.
In the 2020-2021 school year, Script To Screen had 50 students participate at three different partner sites. In the 2022 Spring semester alone, there were 50 participants at five partner sites. Two additional sites are set to add on in the Fall 2022 semester.
For more information about the Red Carpet Premier on May 12 at 6 p.m. and to purchase tickets, visit its site.