We are Honored to Receive a James Patterson Partnership Grant!

Back in March, James Patterson and Scholastic announced an incredible opportunity for school libraries around the country.  From the official press release:

March 9, 2015 — New York, NY — As part of an ongoing effort to keep books and reading a number one priority in the United States, James Patterson has announced that he will donate $1.25 million to school libraries this year. In the first-ever partnership of its kind, Patterson is joining forces with Scholastic Reading Club to administer funding applications to their network of 62,000 schools and 800,000 teachers. Scholastic will match each dollar with “Bonus Points,” which teachers can use to acquire books and other materials for their classrooms, at every school that receives an award. Applications to nominate a school library for a donation can be found here: www.scholastic.com/pattersonpartnership.

James Patterson is donating this money because he believes that fewer children are growing up in a household full of books – and that the effects of this absence could have a profound impact on a child’s future, and on the future of our country. Every child in America should have access to books and a functioning school library, and he believes that improvements in school libraries will foster children’s love of reading and boost their academic achievement overall.
I immediately took advantage of this opportunity by writing a 300 word or less application for our library. My hope was to get a $10,000 grant to support our student book budget project.  Here’s what I wrote:
Each year, I reserve $1000 in the library budget for a project called “Student Book Budgets”. This money is completely controlled by students to purchase books for the library that matches the reading interests of the entire school. Over time, we have developed a dependable process.  A group of students is chosen based on a variety of criteria, including students who have trouble finding books.They create a survey in Google forms and use iPads to survey all grades.  The students analyze the data to see what the top reading interests are. They establish goals and divide the budget among these goals. We send our goals to library vendors who bring in matching book samples and catalogs. Students make wish lists that exceed our budget. Students narrow the list to match our budget. Tough decisions are made about which books to keep and eliminate. I order the finalized lists. While we wait, students come up with a marketing plan. The students unpack the books and get the honors of the first checkouts. Within hours of putting the books out, they are all checked out and remain among the most popular books.I have shared this process on the national level and many libraries have benefited from the idea. The problem with this process is that we obtain an entire school’s reading interests, but our limited budget only allows us to honor a few of them. If we have $10,000, we could expand our reach to include more student interests and not feel that all of our work creating lists of books is whittled away during the budget process. I am confident that we could spend the money in a way that values the reading interests of our entire school.
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In May, I received an email letting me know that I was a finalist for the grant, but I of course had to keep that a secret, which was very hard to do!  I submitted some additional info and waited some more. Then, in late May, my principal received the call.  Our library was award a $5000 grant from James Patterson with a $5000 matching grant from Scholastic Book Clubs, so we essentially have $10,000 between vendors of our choice and Scholastic Book Club to support our student book budget for the 2015-2016 school year.
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I plan to start this project very early in the school year and involve as many students as possible so that students can enjoy the books that we purchase throughout the school year.  Thank you James Patterson for believing in the power of libraries.  Thank you Scholastic for amplifying this opportunity and matching it with your own resources.  Congratulations to all of the libraries who received grants in this first round of announcements!  I can’t wait to share the news with this year’s book budget students and blog about our process in selecting books.
Avid (2)

World Book Night 2013

In the bag:  A letter about World Book Night, discussion guide, Wimpy Kid bookmark, and Middle School the Worst Years of My Life

In the bag: A letter about World Book Night, discussion guide, Wimpy Kid bookmark, and Middle School the Worst Years of My Life

Today is World Book Night.  This year, our library was chosen to be “a giver” for this special annual celebration.  Our selected book was Middle School the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson.  My original plan was to target a specific group of our 5th graders who will be transitioning to middle school very soon.  However, after reading the book, I really thought that it was a book that all of our 5th graders should get the chance to enjoy.  With support from PTA and some book fair profits, I was able to buy extra copies of the book to add to the 20 copies given to me by World Book Night.  Our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, was incredibly fast in getting the books to us and they even had them shipped to our school.  Avid was also the pickup spot for our box of books from the World Book Night organization.  Our family engagement specialist, Mimi Elliott-Gower, helped me plan a special time for our 5th graders.  She even made them all a bookworm snack.

Today at 1:45, all 5th graders gathered in the library.  We skyped with Shawn Hinger, media specialist extraordinaire at Clarke Middle School.  She answered a lot of questions that students had about the middle school library.  She had several of her students join her, and many of them answered questions about the library too.  I loved the participatory feel of our Skype.

Next, Tad MacMillan, Clarke Middle School principal, spoke to our 5th graders in person.  He discussed the summer learning slide and how reading could help deter that slide.  He encouraged kids to think beyond reading 15 minutes per day and instead think about how many minutes they actually had in their summer.  Wouldn’t a goal of 45-60 minutes per day be even better?  He ended his time by reading from one of the other World Book Night selections, The House on Mango Street.

IMG_0526Then, it was time for the big reveal.  I told the kids about World Book Night.  Some of the kids had already asked me if I was going to be a giver, so I book talked my book to them and let them guess which book I was giving away.  Once they guessed the title, I told them about how I wanted to give more than just 20 copies of the book away and with the help of PTA and book fair that was exactly what I was going to do right now!  I went over the discussion guide with the kids and urged them to read the book with their families and begin to talk about their goals and worries about middle school.  Then, we passed out bags to all students in 5th grade.  Each bag contained a letter to families about World Book Night, a bookmark, a discussion guide, a bag of bookworms, and the book.  IMG_0504

Even though I deviated from my original plan for World Book Night and even though I didn’t really randomly pass out the books like WBN suggests doing, I feel like this was the right thing to do.  Fifty two copies of the book were distributed, and I feel like there will be at least 52 excited kids who will possibly have some great conversations with their families based in a humorous, yet gripping book.  So many of the kids came up and thanked me for the books, and when I went into their classrooms to check on them, I saw several of them already reading.  What an exciting day!IMG_0547

WHAT IS WORLD BOOK NIGHT?
World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading,
person to person. Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their
communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and nonreaders. In 2013, World Book Night will be celebrated in the U.S., the UK, and Ireland.
World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t
regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and
connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—
through the sharing of stories.
World Book Night is a nonprofit organization. We exist because of the support of
thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in
our mission. Set for April 23 each year to honor Shakespeare’s birthday, World Book
Night was successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, and World Book Night was first
celebrated in the U.S. in 2012. Thank you to our U.K. friends for such a wonderful idea!
WHY IS WORLD BOOK NIGHT IMPORTANT?
Why does World Book Night exist? Reading for pleasure improves literacy, actively
engaging emerging readers in their desire to read. Reading changes lives, improves
employability, social interaction, enfranchisement, and can have a positive effect on
mental health and happiness. Book readers of all ages are more likely to participate in
positive activities such as volunteering, attending cultural events, and even physical
exercise.
Or more simply put, books are fun—and they can be life-changing.