‘Tis the season for giving!
Teaming up with American Reading Company and Random House Publishing, Chester Upland School District saw to it that nearly 6,000 new books made it into the hands of Chester youth on Saturday, December 6. Chester has launched a district wide literacy initiative this year, implementing an integrated literacy block, thematic units of study, and at least one hour every day of structured independent reading. In order to reinforce this initiative, the district hosted a Parent University Family Summit, attracting more than 500 people to an event that featured free workshops for all CUSD parents and guardians. Recognizing “Parents: Our 1st Teachers,” the book giveaway was designed to bolster the home libraries of families all across Chester.
The excitement was palpable as both children and adults “shopped” for free books suitable for students in Grades pre-K-12. Everyone’s appetite for literature was satisfied, and everyone walked away a happy customer. The event was well attended by a broad spectrum of community stakeholders, including Chester Mayor John Linder, State Representative and educational advocate Thaddeus Kirkland, and CUSD Board President Bettie McClairen. In his opening remarks, Mayor Linder commended district staff, parents, and students for committing to work together to put CUSD on the front page of the local paper for academic achievements. Mayor Linder then stopped in to select a few books for his grandson, pausing for a moment to be photographed with Chester alumni Brittany Gray and Jamaal Martin, class of 2007. Brittany and Jamaal felt inspired by the effort, noting that they wanted to give back to their community by tutoring young Chester students. The Book Giveaway was made possible through the generosity of Random House Publishing and a team of talented curriculum and classroom library design specialists from American Reading Company. On Friday, nearly 20 ARC employees carefully unpacked, organized, and displayed the books according to readability and interest level, designating areas for Pre-Kindergarten-Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school. Then on Saturday, additional ARC team members took great care to assist family members in choosing “just right” books for the children in their lives. The value of placing books into the home cannot be underestimated – recent studies have shown that simply by building up a home library, families can significantly boost their children’s academic performance.
American Reading Company is working with Chester Upland School District in a strategic partnership designed to ensure that every student in Chester is reading on or above grade level. Aspects of this partnership include job-embedded professional learning opportunities for the staff and integrated units of study that incorporate focused literacy instruction across content areas.
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