The Ocala Horse Alliance’s Black Stallion Reading Project
BY ELLIE TRUEMAN
Literacy is the most critical skill needed for any measure of success in today’s world. A love of reading, instilled early in life, has proven to be a most valued and beneficial attribute that serves and delivers for a lifetime. Reading opens doors to new worlds, it inspires, educates, and helps propel young people along a path to success and happiness.
The Ocala Horse Alliance (OHA) is now entering our third year of the Black Stallion Reading Project, now in all 4th grades at all 30 Marion County elementary schools and two private schools. Over 3300 4th graders will receive a copy to keep of the classic book, The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley along with bookmarks and other supporting materials. The curriculum for The Black Stallion Reading Project (BSRP) was developed specifically to meet the standards of the Florida Department of Education. It incorporates geography, vocabulary, and history in addition to reading and comprehension skill development.
Marion County is indeed the Horse Capital of the world. As such, we uniquely have the potential to utilize the immense power of the horse and the resources of the diverse and expanding horse community to help inspire our children to read, dream, set goals, and achieve. As universal symbols of strength, beauty, speed, and intelligence, horses relate to all ages and to all demographics. Horses have proven to be great motivators.
Why is literacy and this project important to the horse industry?
Quite simply, these are our children, this is our community, and this is the future of the horse industry in Marion County. An educated community is a prosperous community. The horse community needs to be a vested partner in the education of our youth.
This year, the OHA will be expanding the project to include motivational elements such as a Horse Education Day for all fourth graders with an appearance of the Black Stallion, a Brag Tag program to call attention to all the breeds and disciplines and participation in career days to bring awareness to the variety of job and career opportunities in the horse industry in Marion County. The BSRP is entirely funded by the horse industry with specific support from a diverse group of horse farms that have partnered with an individual elementary school.
Frank Serafini, the distinguished professor of literacy education and children’s literature, once stated, “There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not read the right book.”
The Ocala Horse Alliance is working to offer The Black Stallion Reading Project and related activities not only as a means to introduce horses and the scope of activities and jobs available in Marion County, but most importantly, as a means to inspire our children to read, to dream, to set goals and to achieve.