Walter Farley’s legendary tale “The Black Stallion” is reconnecting America’s kids with their imaginations and the world of the horse by combining reading with visits to professional stables. And it’s working!
The Black Stallion Literacy Project (BSLP) combines Farley’s books and the unforgettable experience of real horses in a presentation that kids and school districts are raving about. “The project was a roaring success and most importantly, the children involved read with great joy!” writes Ginger Head, executive director of Imagination Celebration Fort Worth upon the completion of the project’s debut last school year. Nearly 6,000 Fort Worth, Texas, and Reno, Nevada, first- and fourth-grade students participated in the program.
Mark Miller, owner of the Arabian Nights Dinner attraction in Orlando, Fla., founded BSLP because he wanted to join his love of horses with his desire to encourage reading among today’s youth. Through the combined efforts of Miller and the Walter Farley family, the BSLP is supplying hardcover copies of “The Black Stallion” and “Little Black, A Pony” to 40,000 students throughout Texas, Nevada, California, Arizona, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Florida this year. Throughout the 2002-2003 school year, 120,000 students are expected to be introduced to reading and equines. Then, BSLP hopes to double its participation rates each year until it reaches every first and fourth grader in the country.
There are separate curriculums and materials for the two age groups. Participants in the first-grade program receive their copies of “Little Black, A Pony” via horseback courier. Students are then encouraged to read the book as the class plans a field trip to give each child one-on-one interaction with a horse at a local farm. After that, students receive vouchers for their second book, “Little Black Goes to the Circus,” that can be redeemed at Barnes and Noble bookstores. “Each child treated their book like a treasure. They could not wait to take them home to share with their families,” writes Christina Record, a first grade teacher from Reno.
Fourth graders are not only encouraged to read their personal copies of “The Black Stallion,” but are also inspired to express their own creativity through artwork, writing assignments and study guides. The students then visit a local equine exhibition like the Horse-a-Rama show in Fort Worth. According to a fourth grader from Fort Worth who wrote to Miller, “The activities you gave us ROCK!” To pique their interests, both groups of students also receive supplies such as posters, six-foot stand-ups and movies.
“Imagination can help you reach into the heavens to grasp an idea, bring it down to earth and make it work,” Walter Farley once said. We all remember our first experience with a horse, whether we were three or 30. Now that same excitement is being shared with thousands of children all around America through a project aimed at helping students embrace reading and learning, while exposing them to the enchanting world of horses.
Stables and equine organizations can join this effort by becoming a “Friend of the Black Stallion Farm.” Local organizations can also support this project by sponsoring equine events for BSLP and the local school district. Contact Carol Alm, president (303) 805-1680.