Wildwood teachers strive to encourage summer reading with giveaway | Newspaper
JUNCTION OF SHENANDOAH – Year after year, Louise McDonald and Anna Mia Fennell watch their students at Wildwood Middle succeed in literacy and language.
Then, summer arrives, and these same students are deprived of the resources found throughout the other months that have fostered learning.
To tackle the summer slippage and encourage students to keep reading even when they’re not in school, the duo founded a gift program for students at the college which is now in its fourth year. Wildwood students will be picking up their summer books soon on May 24.
“It all started, because we teach in Wildwood, which is right there in Shenandoah Junction, and the kids we teach live in the center of the county,” said McDonald. “There are no libraries for these children. There is no way for them to access the documents, even at Charles Town’s private library. Public libraries, at Harpers Ferry or Summit Point, are a long way from these children. When we say, “You have to read books in the summer,” they’re like, “Have a good time with this. This is not happening. We tried to find some kind of alternative. This is the alternative that we have proposed.
“We were pushing the books so hard in our classrooms and really trying to get into that habit, and then we hit the end of the school year, and it was like a big old wall in the creek here.”
Fennell laughed, saying they originally wanted to create a bookmobile until awareness of the cost and logistics set in, with the couple conceptualizing a giveaway as the best way to meet the student body.
So McDonald and Fennell left, collecting as many used books as they could, using their own money to fund the program until Fennell started looking for grants.
“We just started out by picking up all the books we could find second-hand at Goodwill,” McDonald said. “We would be at goodwill and text each other, ‘Have you ever been at this goodwill?’ We would check out Shepherdstown, Charles Town and Martinsburg. “Did you go to the Salvation Army in Winchester?” We did whatever we could find, and it was all out of our pocket, because that was all we had.
Ideas for grants began to circulate and Wildwood received a grant from the Eastern West Virginia Community Foundation for youth literacy. But then came how to buy books in bulk, while still making the best use of the resources acquired.
“It was all of those things you really had to think about before you could do it,” Fennell said. “We’ve done a bit of research, and Scholastic has summer reading packs where you can buy about 30 books per book. Each pack contained approximately 150 pounds. The grant we originally drafted was for students considered low income, so it did not cover all of our students.
“It was that big wish, and we were hoping something would come of it. The day we got the approval in the mail – they mailed it to you – I literally screamed in the faculty lounge. It was addressed to me. People were like, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’ I ran into Louise’s room, “Oh my God, we’ve got it!” With this money we were able to buy about 700 books. “
The faculty senate also donated money that year, as did some students with books they no longer wanted. Between the money and the books offered, as well as the books the couple bought, they were able to fully cover the student body.
“We were able to piece together this great gift,” Fennell said. “It was so exciting when the kids came to pick up their books, and we explained why we were doing it. They work very hard throughout the school year to improve their reading fluency through independent reading, vocabulary and reading comprehension, but they just don’t have books at home.
By grade two, the program was already loved by the Wildwood community, with students writing heartfelt letters to McDonald’s and Fennell, including a young boy who chose a book to help his little brother learn to read.
This sophomore year saw a lot of the same scramble, looking for deals on books as they could find.
“I became known as ‘The Lady of the Book’, and I think Louise did too,” Fennell laughs. “I would ask people to give me books at random.”
This second year has also seen the duo change the game: First Book, a non-profit organization.
“Come and find out, when we are struggling, First Book is actually an organization of people trying to do what we do, which is to put books in the hands of kids who don’t have them,” McDonald said. with a laugh. “It was a game changer because it allowed us to buy a 25-pound box for the $ 25 shipping. Then we could advertise that we had a lot of that book, and we could “sell” the books. We could get the kids interested in the books we had, because it wasn’t just a this and a that and another. We’re still doing a bit of this one and that one, but it’s really helpful when you’re trying to get kids to buy in, get excited, pick their own book without having to pitch a separate pitch. to every child who walks through the door.
Because First Book is connected with publishers and distributors, books are more available in bulk, which means students read the same stories and can share more discussions. The teachers shared stories from the books passing through groups of friends and hearing discussions – both excited and encouraging – among the students.
“We had children who presented the books to other children; we didn’t have to pitch. They would say, ‘Oh my God, I read this book. I love this book. You must read this book. It was really fun. We incorporated some of our students into our giveaway, and their job was to walk around and talk about books. It was fun to see them go to the younger classes and talk about books, but even in the classes you had kids talking to each other about books.
A $ 2,000 credit from First Book to Wildwood last year allowed the school to bring in around 1,750 pounds for the giveaway, one that didn’t gain much popularity as students had a brief chance to grab a book when they gathered their things as the pandemic pressed them. outside the building.
This year, however, things are in full swing with the protocol in place, as there are plenty of books up for grabs, as well as Pokémon Cards that were donated through First Book anonymously.
Thinking back to where the idea started and now seeing the reading culture that Wildwood thrived inside its doors touches Fennell and McDonald’s, knowing that they and the school have made a real impact. on the lives of their students which will hopefully continue throughout their lives.
“I’ve had countless students, and Louise has had countless students who say, ‘I’ve never read so many books before in my entire life,’” said Fennell. “It’s really, really heartwarming to see that. You want this to continue as they get older.
“It was our idea, and we spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we were going to do this. It took us a lot of conversations: “We’re so successful now. How can we maintain this? How do we make sure that the kids don’t lose over the summer any of the learning they’ve done because they’ve done amazing things during the school year? Just to be there the day we give the books and the kids are excited, to be in that moment is an amazing experience.
It is this culture that keeps the spark for the two teachers who have seen it flourish from nothing to the power it is today.
“When I first started teaching, I was teaching from a cart,” McDonald said. “I had a cart and some folders and some documents. How do you teach reading without a book? We didn’t have any books. We didn’t even have textbooks for a very long time. Finally, I had a box of dictionaries, but reading a dictionary is not really fun. It has been a long journey in knowing how to give books to children. We both started with our class libraries putting books in the room so they could get their hands on these things.
“It was a whole new thing for them that was not part of their family culture or their school culture at the time. It has been a real process of growth. It goes beyond the giveaway of the book and the summer slide. This brings us back to how we invent a school experience through college, which is such a crucial turning point for these kids, and make it about reading, excitement, and meeting lives that are not what we live?
Wildwood also recently had a small free library set up nearby at Shenandoah Junction to help students access the books, and staff are looking for a location in Ranson to serve the rest of the student body.