Library grant helps students see themselves in literature

by LeAnn Dowty, librarian in Shelby County Schools

This June, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) will award a 2018 Inspire Collection Development Grant to my school, Kingsbury Middle School (KMS) in Memphis. The Inspire Grant program, funded by AASL member Marina “Marney” Welmers, was created to advance student achievement in public middle and high schools through updating school library collections or providing funding for a special library event for students. Our KMS family is thrilled and excited to have this opportunity to add much needed resources to our library collection.

You see, we serve a neighborhood in northeast Memphis that has a very diverse student population, the majority of which is Hispanic. Since many of our students enter KMS reading below grade level, it is critical that our school library is an active partner with our teachers to promote literacy and impact student achievement, providing books that are relevant and represent perspectives as diverse as our students. Our principal, Dr. Tarcia Parrish, supports the library as an integral and impactful resource to improve the achievement of our students. We believe the library should serve the whole school community and be the very heart of the school.

This past year, one of our English as a second language teachers approached me with a concern that his students wanted to know more about their Hispanic heritage. While I was able to pull a limited selection of general reference books about Mexico and other Latin American countries and some biographies of Hispanic people, it was apparent that we need a much wider and updated variety of resources for our diverse student population. Especially in a middle school, students need access to books that reflect and affirm their unique life experiences.

There is an emphasis in our district, as well as across the nation, on ensuring that all students are engaging with complex text and learning grade-level content daily. A well-developed and up-to-date library collection that supports the curriculum, particularly in science and social studies, is integral to achieving that directive. At the same time, we need to make sure that our students have access to books that are especially relevant to them and their world. My goal is to build up our library collection to include up-to-date books, appropriate for our students’ reading and interest levels and supporting both our students and our curriculum.

I am grateful to use the funds provided from AASL’s Inspire Collection Development Grant to add much-needed relevant, appealing books that will not only positively impact science and social studies instruction, but will also enhance student achievement in literacy.

Librarians interested in applying for AASL’s Inspire Collection Development Grant can find additional information at Applications for the 2018-2019 school year will be accepted from October through February 1st via a link on that website.