LETTERLAND ALIVE! Musical To Bring Phonics Program To Life

By: Sep. 10, 2019

Taking the stage this month across Henderson County Public Schools elementaries: Letterland Alive!

The Henderson County Education Foundation (HCEF) has secured funding for and collaborated with North Carolina's state theatre, Flat Rock Playhouse, and HCPS' Elementary Education & Title 1 Department to bring HCPS' phonics program to life for the district's 1,900 kindergartners and first-graders.

"With $19,000 in grant funds from Community Foundation of Henderson County
and $3,800 from the St. James Charities Foundation, Flat Rock Playhouse (FRP) has created and cast an original musical featuring alphabet characters from the Letterland© phonics program," said Summer Stipe, HCEF Executive Director. "They'll be taking the show on the road to all 13 HCPS elementary schools this month, thanks to a van sponsored by Boyd Chevrolet Cadillac Buick, Inc."

Adopted as HCPS' primary K-2 phonics program in the 2016-17 school year, Letterland© gives each letter of the English alphabet a character and backstory: H is Harry Hat Man, E is Eddy Elephant, and T is Talking Tess. With these characters, students learn their ABCs with helpful stories that help them keep difficult letters straight.

"We were invited to create a show specifically designed to serve some of the youngest citizens in our community as they learn how to read," said FRP Producing Artist Director Lisa K. Bryant. "To accomplish this, we called on former grads of our intensive professional training program (FRP Apprenticeship) who are now in the earlier stages of their professional careers as writers, directors, choreographers, and performers."

The 40-minute musical composed by former FRP Apprentice Ethan Andersen expands upon the Letterland© alphabet characters' backstories to reinforce the lessons young students will be learning in the classroom.

"The show spans many musical genres so we have all different styles of dance and movement, which helps to keep our audience engaged," said Letterland Alive! Director and former FRP Apprentice Maddie Franke. "We want the students clapping, dancing, singing along, and having so much fun that they don't realize they are learning new valuable reading skills that will help them every day!"

Letterland Alive! will simultaneously engage families with their children's phonics curriculum and individual school communities - further supporting early childhood literacy skills since parent engagement is an indicator of student success, said Shannon Marlowe, HCPS Director of Elementary Education & Title I.

"Additionally, Letterland Alive! will bring high quality performing arts experiences to all our K-1 students in the district, regardless of socio-economic factors that might be barriers to some," Marlowe said.

Letterland Alive! opens Sept. 11 at Hillandale Elementary. Families of K-1 students will be invited to their schools' individual performance dates.


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