Frontier Student Carter Beardsley on Reshaping Literacy for Kern County

Thursday April 18, 2024

To help promote National Library Week, held the third week of April every year, we are spotlighting Carter Beardsley, a junior at Frontier High School who is making strides to combat literacy issues in Kern County. As the Chairman of the Kern Literacy Council’s Youth Literacy Committee and a leader in various other educational roles, Beardsley is dedicated to fostering a culture of reading and learning.

Last month — through his work with the Kern Literacy Council and a generous donation from Aera Energy — Carter helped bring a book vending machine to the Delano Union School District to encourage reading for students enrolled at Harvest Elementary School and La Viña Middle School.

This week, we sat down with Carter to discuss his passion for literacy, the projects he’s spearheading, and their impact on the community. 

Q & A with Carter Beardsley

What inspired you to work on literacy projects in Kern County?

Community has always been a strong value of mine. For me, it was never if, but when and how I could give back to the community that raised me. Having two teachers as parents, the importance of literacy was not lost on me. Neither was our – not just countywide, but state wide – struggle with it. I wanted to find a solution that would provide a fun, free opportunity for students to engage with reading to make it accessible and encouraging.

Can you explain the Laundromat Library and Book Vending Machine programs?

For our Literacy in the Laundromat initiative, we find laundromats that we feel would reach a good number of people, primarily kids, and we call and ask if they would be interested in having a library. If they are, we purchase a bookshelf, stock it, and then deliver it. It’s as easy as that. 

Getting a book vending machine is more complicated but still pretty simple. We start by finding a sponsor. We like our sponsors to be from the local community because we feel that it means more for students to see a local logo on the side of a machine and be able to recognize that “Hey, this is my community that cares for me and wants to foster a more literacy based environment for students like myself.” 

We then purchase the machine, work with our design team to draw up a design for the machine, and wait for its arrival. For both of these projects, the Kern Literacy Council maintains a supply of books so that the places we work with never have to worry about them going empty.

What challenges have you faced while working on this project, and how have you overcome them?

I usually find myself to be the youngest person in the room. When I had to make calls saying, “I am asking you for your financial support on this project, oh and by the way, I am a junior in high school,” it was easy not to be taken seriously. Thankfully, with Delano Councilman Salvador Solorio-Ruiz’s support, I met with the Kern Literacy Council, who decided to take a chance on me. They recognized the unique perspective that only a student can provide, and this ended up being the reason that we created the Youth Literacy Committee, which I have been so proud to spearhead. We’re actually hoping to get more young people involved to make sure that we are continuing to uplift youth voices throughout our schools.

What impact do you believe these literacy initiatives will have on the community?

Ideally, of course, the lasting impact would be that these projects would get books in the hands of each and every student in Kern County and help bolster our literacy rates like never before. I am proud that this has already started and is continuing to grow! Since the vending machine was implemented in Delano just over a month ago, over 100 books have been redeemed by students to date. 

However, this is more about than just literacy. It is leadership as well. Students get tokens to redeem books for good behavior, attendance, and academic improvement. As one of the kiddos at the school said, “It’s compensation for your hard work.” I like to think that the impact it will have is more than just getting kids to read. It’s also getting kids to see that their local community cares for them – hence why our sponsors are local.

How has working with Kern Literacy and on these literacy projects affected you personally?

Working with the Kern Literacy Council on these initiatives has been incredibly crucial. I’ve always wanted to do something to give back to the community that raised me in some capacity. I feel so blessed I was able to do that. I was also grateful to learn so much along the way. This experience opened my eyes to just how much young people can accomplish. 

Are there any upcoming events or expansions of the project that people should be aware of?

We are really, really excited, thanks to Valley Strong Credit Union, to be getting a second Book Vending Machine inside the Department of Human Services’ visiting center. When I first started thinking about the machine going in Delano, I immediately thought of how amazing it would be to have one at DHS, and I am so proud and grateful that we are in the process of doing that. 

How can others in the community get involved or support these literacy initiatives?

There are a couple of different ways to get involved with supporting our literacy initiatives. On a larger scale, if you or someone you know owns a business and is interested in sponsoring a book vending machine, they can reach out to me at Carter@kernliteracy.org. 

For each person individually, the most impactful thing you can do is keep reading. If you have old children’s books, donate them and get them in the hands of kids. Read at the local libraries, and above all, know that our work towards increasing literacy is a community effort.

If you’re interested, you can also donate to the Kern Literacy Council HERE. We also have an adult literacy tutoring program that you can sign up to be a tutor for at HERE.

Carter Beardsley was named a 2023 Kern County Equity Champion last fall.

By Jennifer Bryan

By Jennifer Bryan

Jennifer Bryan joined Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2021 as a Communications Specialist. As a creative and motivated marketing communications specialist, she has a special knack for storytelling and content creation. Born and raised in Kern County, Jennifer has worked in major industries within the region such as agriculture and oil and gas before she made the transition to education.