By Sophie Schwedland
As part of my district’s early literacy initiatives, Literacy Interventionists are able to provide students they teach with books the students get to choose and keep to read over the summer. In my first year as a Literacy Interventionist, I was able to gift each of my students $200 worth of personally-selected books. This program is still in place for this school year, but I wanted to do more somehow. As an avid reader, this was meaningful and fun for me, though there was still a niggling thought in the back of my head. A third grade teacher had gotten me thinking when she described how she partnered with parents about reading and the outcome was that students seemed to grow exponentially. I went to speak to that teacher about this more. We decided to work together to win some grant money to let students choose books they wanted to read all year long with hopes that we would build on these positive results.
- I brainstormed our purpose: why, and what.
- I wordsmithed it.
- Then I searched EVERYWHERE online for grants that had those keywords.
I admit that I did use education buzzwords in my grant proposals. Each time I wrote a grant, I put my answers into a Google document master, so that I could copy and paste my wonderfully written, heartfelt answers into the fture grants which happened to ask the same questions on every application. I didn’t think I needed to recreate the wheel as time was limited! I applied for any and every literacy grant that I felt would support us, no matter how larger or small, for this school year or next. FINALLY, I waited and waited and waited and forgot about deadlines, award dates, grant amounts, grant contents, grant requirements, etc.
Throughouth the school year, I continued to apply for grants whenever I was notified of one (our district has a monthly notification newsletter of grant opportunities) or I found one which matched our needs.
Fast forward to the next school year. Why wait for summer to give students books to read at home if they don’t have books at the beginning of the school year?? Literacy Interventionists, Curriculum and Instruction administration, and English Language Arts Content Specialists discussed this question. I met with my school’s third grade teachers who had also shared quite positive feedback about the previous book project. They had seen increased engagement and literacy growth in reading outside of school.
Together, these conversations led me to do something new this school year. First, I contacted Joel Newton of the Edgewater Collective, our local area advocacy group. Mr. Newton worked with a local donor to fund enough new Scholastic books so that each student in my groups received several books early in the fall to beef up their home libraries. My students became so motivated to read more that I was inspired to write over $3,000 in grants from Dollar General, Westerra, and Mary Pope Osborne.
Part of this post did go into an article for my school district and our local online newspaper. Amazingly, months later I still have not spent all of the grant money, although I did visit the Scholastic Warehouse Book sale in December!. Sorting sure can be a nightmare, even though it is like Christmas every time! I met someone just last week who wants to be walked through this manic process of mine, so she can accomplish a goal of hers at her school. I will be able to let the students choose their own books to take home at least twice more this school year!! To end the year, I will complete the grant reports required by the grantors and our district. That should be fun! Sarcasm included here. I am not sure what I will do next year to continue this endeavor, as it is a huge undertaking on my own. I am torn because it is so rewarding but money is needed to keep this project sustainable into the future. A question I’m still pondering is how to motivate families to access these resources on their own. If you have any ideas, please share! Next year one improvement is adding volunteers in order to reduce the time spent sorting and organizing books.
I TRULY believe that the love of reading and finding books one is interested in are FOUNDATIONAL to being a reader! The passion for reading at Lumberg Elementary is contagious now! I have helped to create the community of reading in which students thrive. IF I can do this, anyone can!
Sophie Schwedland grew up around readers in Indiana and even remembers reading her first book Hand Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Dr. Seuss as a three year-old with her mother. Sophie moved from teaching third grade to teaching school-based reading intervention when recovering from cancer. This is how she ended up as a district-based Literacy Interventionist today, where she is able to literally spread the love of reading!
Sophie is involved in activities other than reading, though literacy always begins, ends or fills her days in some way, shape or form. She is a two-time breast cancer survivor who paddles on the Pink Phantom Dragon Boat team, a machine embroiderer, a Girls on the Run coach, a pet lover and an avid crafter. Find her on Twitter @soapsschwed.