Springfield Books Spot in National Reading Project

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), March 12, 2009 | Go to article overview

Springfield Books Spot in National Reading Project


Byline: Amanda Burhop For The Register-Guard

In these days of tightening school budgets, Springfield's public schools are feeling fortunate to participate in a national book-rating project that will put thousands of books into the hands of middle and high school students.

"Without this program, it would be nearly impossible to keep our library collections up to date with high-interest books," says Bob Helm, who helped guide the application process for the school district.

Helm, who teaches at Briggs Middle School, and Patrick Allender, based at Thurston Middle School, have been chosen as team leaders. They will represent the West Coast in the International Reading Association's Young Adults' Choices program, which gives middle and high school students the opportunity to voice their opinions about the books available to them.

As a result of the schools' participation, the libraries will be enriched with several thousand copies of new hardcover books at an estimated value of $70,000.

As "literacy coaches," Helm and Allender were logical candidates to help pursue the project. The two were hired to their positions 2' years ago. And this past year, Brandi Starck joined them as a third "coach."

All are full-time teachers who serve as literacy resources for the district's five middle schools.

Helm explains that as literacy coaches they do their share of districtwide work, such as professional development training, organizing reading motivation programs (such as the recently completed Battle of the Books), and supporting "best practices" instruction. Most of their work, however, is with teachers and students at specific middle schools.

"Our jobs are very stimulating and creative," Helm says. "My favorite activities involve collaborating with other teachers and encouraging students to read more books.

"That's why the opportunity to participate in the Young Adults' Choices program is so exciting."

Helm and Allender will join representatives from four other regions across the nation to participate in the three-year project.

Participation in the Young Adults' Choices program matches Springfield schools' goals perfectly, Helm says, alluding to the district's embrace of literacy as a major curricular and staff development focus.

"We believe that extensive, independent reading translates into better reading skills, broader background know ledge, greater confidence and interest in reading, and rich vocabulary development for our students," he says.

Librarians Linda Erickson of Briggs Middle School and Merrie Olson of Thurston Middle School will work with Helm and Allender over the next three years to distribute the new young adult literature books to Springfield middle and high school students. The students will have the opportunity to read the books and then rate them based on how much they liked them.

A list of the top 30 books each year will be determined by the results of each region and announced at the IRA's annual convention each spring. The list also will be published in the IRA's Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and posted online.

The first supply of books will arrive this summer to be distributed for the 2009-10 school year.

In the first year of participation, schools will receive two sets of 300 popular new hardcover books. An additional five sets of 300 new books will be delivered the second year, and three sets of 300 new titles will arrive in the third year.

Helm says criteria for distribution will include whether particular books and themes are more appropriate for seventh- and eighth-graders or high school juniors and seniors. …

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