Kelsey was like most students in Tricia Grady’s 7th Grade English class. She only read when she had to, and she never read for pleasure. She thought the books in the Library were old and they didn’t interest her.
Tyler, a student in Nicci Sargent’s high school English class agreed. He thought the books in the Library smelled like “old people.”
But things changed when Mrs. Sargent, Mrs. Grady and four other middle and high school English classes received a grant from the Education Foundation to purchase books for their classrooms that the students would want to read.
The grant’s goal was to increase the reading level of struggling readers by two grade levels in one year. By having books readily available in the classroom, students wouldn’t have to spend class time going to the Library to pick out books. Or if they “forgot” a book at home, there are books avail The “Gettin’ In the Zone” grant was also used to purchase rugs where students could read comfortably.
Students in all the classes were involved in selecting the books. They had to choose books in their reading level, but once the books were delivered, students could read any book. Most of the books were modern series that the students are very interested in and with many students reading books in the same series, they often have discussions about them.
After the books were ordered, students came in every day asking, “When are the books going to be here? When are the books coming in?”
In just the first semester that the books were available, most students read much more than in the past and at least 50% of the students increased their reading levels by two years or more!
Mrs. Grady keeps a chart on the wall with stars for each book a student reads. Kelsey, like many students in her class, has run out of room on the chart – she read more than 50 books during the spring semester. And Mrs. Grady ran out of stars!
Tyler read more than five books during the semester, something he’d never done before. “Having books I’m interested in right here in the classroom is awesome.”
Each teacher provides incentives to his or her classes. For Mrs. Grady’s classes, when the whole class hit a goal of 150 books, they had a pizza party. Kellee Slevin, an 8th grade teacher, ordered a green rug and purchased an “executive putting set” so that when students finish a book and hand in their book summary, they can try for a hole in one on the rug. If they get the hole in one, they can choose a treat from a “reward box.”
Mrs. Sargent said, “Our students have loved being able to choose what they read, and they were overwhelmed when they were able to choose the novels purchased with this grant. They felt very empowered and connected to the reading materials that we purchased. The students also enjoyed being able to relax with a book on the carpets purchased with the grant. There was always a discussion as to who would be allowed to sit on the carpet each day.”