By Jim Ramsey
One day each month of the school year, Deb Davis’ second-grade students at Farmin Stidwell elementary school in Sandpoint have a big celebration when the books they have ordered through Book Trust arrive.
Each of her 25 students, who otherwise couldn’t afford to purchase them, receive their own special books, using the $7 per month or more they are allotted each month under a locally-sponsored program called Village Green. They take these books home with them, read them with their parents and form a personal library with up to 30 books over a school year.
“There is an amazing woman who is behind this wonderful program,” Ms. Davis said.
This person is Karen Quill of Sagle, who, after setting up a similar program in Hawaii, has organized the nonprofit organization.
In the last three years, starting with Washington elementary followed by Northside, Village Green has enabled first through third graders in all seven elementary schools in the Lake Pend Oreille School District—1,114 students in all—to choose their own books and take them home.
LPOSD is the only school district in Idaho that has this program, said Quill, and in those three years it has proven to improve students’ reading scores and help prepare them for high school and after that college or jobs. Reading at an early age is a key ingredient, educators agree, in an effort to improve the percentage of local students going on to college and to address what a state education task force has labeled as “Idaho’s dismal college graduation rate.”
“This is a huge way for us to impact our community and combat illiteracy,” Ms. Davis said. Kids tend to read books they choose, she adds, and they now have books to start a library at home.
“The program has led from 50 percent to 100 percent of kids getting books every month,” she said. The program also helps provide more books for the classroom library.
Each elementary school teacher also gets “points” for ordering books, allowing them to order more books or receive a gift card to order other classroom items. Deb Davis was able to use these points to order earphones for all her students’ iPads.
Karen Quill’s local organization Village Green works in conjunction with Book Trust, a national organization headquartered in Denver, which this year will provide 1.2 million books to 50,000 school children in 19 states. Book Trust is a national literacy program designed to empower elementary–aged students to fall in love with reading and become life-long learners.
Book Trust says it has seen a 30-percent increase in the number of students reading at grade level by year’s end. Nearly 60 percent of (Book Trust) teachers report BT positively affected students’ scores on standardized reading assessments vs. 25 percent of teachers whose students are involved in other reading programs.
“Research shows,” the organization claims, “the number of books in a child’s home has the same impact on a child’s educational attainment as parental education levels.”
While Book Trust pays the bill ($7 x 25 monthly for Deb Davis’ class), Quill wants people to know that local donations to Village Green, a local nonprofit, are used locally, and don’t go to a national organization. Money is raised from individuals and businesses, and also from grants from such local organizations as CAL and the Rotary Club.
On Wednesday, June 21, Baxter’s Restaurant is hosting a Book Trust fundraiser for Village Green. There will also be a fundraiser golf tournament held at The Idaho Club on Sept. 2.
“Book Trust relies on community support to run its programs and recognizes that some parents would also like to be supporters of this program,” Quill said. Some parents are encouraging this program in their schools by making donations.
Books are ordered through Scholastic Book Club, a publisher of children’s books, and the Scholastic Magazine. Teachers like Deb Davis can set up a computerized ordering system that automatically orders the books the students choose.
Karen Quill’s program began with first graders in the 2014-15 school year, then in 2015-16 it included first and second grades. Now in its third year in the 2016-17 school year, third-grade students are included and the program will expand to include all kindergarten students starting in February 2017.
For further information about Book Trust please, contact your child’s teacher or visit www.villagegreenproject.org.
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