Grant funds more that 10,000 New books in Sparta schools
SPARTA — The Sparta Education Foundation (SEF) recently funded a grant of more than $53,000 to put 144 brand new books into every classroom at Helen Morgan School, Alpine School and Mohawk Avenue School.According to Marybeth Kopacz, the Elementary Literacy Supervisor at Helen Morgan and Mohawk Avenue Schools, each classroom received a new “leveled library,” meaning a collection of books which address a range of subjects, interests and abilities for the kindergarten and elementary grade students in the three schools. SEF’s grant purchased a total of 10,863 books.Thank you cards and letters to the SEF from students illustrated just how much the new books are appreciated. For instance, fourth grader Sarah wrote, “Reading and writing is my favorite subject and you made me love it more than life itself.” While fellow classmate Rebecca wrote, “Thank you for letting us have new books in our own library! I really appreciate it, I can’t wait to read these amazing books.”Other students reported that they have already begun reading titles from their classroom collections, including "The Missing Found" by Margaret Peterson Haddix, "Journey to the Center of the Earth" by Jules Verne, "Bartimaeus the Amulet of Samarkand" by Jonathan Stroud, "Travel Team" by Mike Lupica and "Scat" by Carl Hiaasen.“These new books have created excitement and enthusiasm among the students and teachers,” Marybeth Kopacz said. “There is a 50-50-balance of fiction and non-fiction books. Subjects include math, science and social studies, plus chapter books, novels and even joke books.”Kopacz said that the books were chosen from a list compiled by Lucy Calkins, a nationally-recognized educator and founding director of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.“We included ‘hot books’ too, since the popularity of certain books changes over the years,” Kopacz added.Having a hands-on selection of books right in the classroom is convenient for students and allows them to read independently about subjects of their own choosing. The books enhance the schools’ library collection and give students the option of keeping a book longer, or making a selection outside of their scheduled trip to the school library.The new books are another step in the school district’s movement toward “balanced literacy,” a multi-faceted approach to teaching children how to read based on five main aspects including phonics, word study, vocabulary, reading comprehension and fluency, Kopacz said. These five aspects work together to create successful readers.Nurturing an early interest in reading and maintaining that interest in higher grades often leads to student success, Kopacz noted. She cited a study done in England that followed more than 6,000 students through their school careers.“Students who read for enjoyment from the ages of 10 to 16 scored substantially better not only on English but in all subject areas, including math, the sciences and social studies,” Kopacz said.Kopacz was thrilled with the speediness of the grant application process, the Sparta Board of Education’s approval of the resolution, and the willingness of the SEF to fund this project. She applied for a book grant in the spring, made a presentation in June, received a check during the summer, and all the books were in the classrooms before school started in September.“This leveled library complements the district’s balanced literacy curriculum but it costs a lot of money. We are so grateful that the SEF stepped in to cover the cost,” Kopacz said.The Sparta Education Foundation has awarded more than $410,000 in grants to all five of Sparta’s public schools since 2007. The Foundation is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to engage the entire community in philanthropic giving that strengthens the public schools, supports teachers, and inspires students.For more information visit spartaeducationfoundation.org.