Changing the Game with Books and Reading

Theresa Pearson had a great plan to support her students during the COVID-19 pandemic. She ordered more than 1,500 books from First Book thanks to a  COVID-19 funding grant opportunity, and the books were shipped to her school, Chester W. Nimitz Elementary in Alabama. Unfortunately, in just a few short weeks, the situation changed dramatically and the books were quarantined at the school. No one is allowed on campus, so she hasn’t been able to access them just yet.

But that hasn’t stopped Theresa. The books will still serve a critical purpose at Nimitz Elementary, where a librarian just joined the staff for the first time in a decade.

“What I plan to do with the books is the result of a book I read called Game Changer, by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp,” Pearson said. “In it, they talked about having classroom libraries that are fully stocked—they said that secondary teachers’ classroom libraries should have 300 to 1,000 books so that students always have access and can check out books. School funds are always tight—we just got a librarian for the first time in 10 year. But there weren’t any funds for classroom libraries.”

Though Theresa has been a teacher for 35 years, only three of those years have been as an English teacher. Although she spent her first 32 years teaching science/math, her current English students have posted the most significant growth school-wide in Language Arts on state-mandated standardized tests. In addition to obtaining reading skills, they’ve also discovered the joy of reading.

“Because I insist that we read,” she said. “We all do the 40 Book Challenge (another Donalyn Miller idea). My classes all read over 1,000 books each year. I have the largest classroom library at my school, mostly due to my purchases from First Book. Students from other teachers’ classes come by my room after school to check out books.”

Teens studying at library

This is where all those books come in.

“There are 14 English teachers at my school. I’m planning to divide the books up so that every teacher gets 100+ new books to put in their classroom library. The students in the Leadership class are going to help with the organizing and distribution. Many of them are my former students and are also avid readers, and they can’t wait to get back to school to help with this.”

After the summer break, all the English teachers will have robust classroom libraries thanks to the COVID-19 grant. While Theresa can’t ship the books home to the kids, there’s a great plan for sharing them at the school and her students have found other ways to keep reading during the summer months.

“I got an email from one of my students asking if the books he read from Open eBooks counted toward the 40 Book Challenge. He was still invested in completing the 40 Book Challenge, even with all of the craziness that’s going on.”

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