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#PattersonPledge of the Week: Gardner Pilot Academy

Earlier this year, bestselling author James Patterson pledged to give $1.75 million in grants to school libraries nationwide—matched by Bonus Points from Scholastic Reading Club! Winning schools have been presented with a phenomenal opportunity to improve their libraries and bring the joy of reading to more members of their school community. We reached out to librarians from winning schools to learn more about their libraries, schools, and plans for the grant money. Today we’re talking with Jennifer Dines, librarian at Gardner Pilot Academy in Boston, MA.

 

What will your grant be used for?

The Gardner Pilot Academy is ecstatic to have received a grant to purchase high-interest, low-reading–level books for our students in grades 4–8. These books will support our students who are learning English as a new language and students who have language-based learning disabilities to fully engage in our independent reading times without the support of an adult or assistive technology. Students in our inclusive school who struggle with reading will be able to use the same materials as their peers: printed books.

How long has this project been on your wish list?

The need for hi-lo books has been pressing for the past three years as we have transitioned from a K–5 school to a K–8 school, and we have also transformed our special-education program into a full-inclusion model. We are always in need of resources to support our readers who struggle with grade-level text, so it is exciting to have this grant available to us.

Will the students in your school have input on the grants execution? 

Our students in grades 4–8 will work with their teachers to choose titles to be added to their classroom libraries. While our teachers will guide this process, we will leave the final purchasing decisions up to our students, as they know best what types of reading will be most enjoyable for themselves. 

How important are school libraries in our communities?

Access to libraries is essential for our children. Although the Gardner Pilot Academy does not have a school library, we are fortunate to have classroom libraries throughout the school as well as a wonderful relationship with the Boston Public Library’s Honan-Allston branch, which is only a ten-minute walk from our building. A library space provides our students with much-needed quiet moments and affords them the pleasure of browsing. Selecting books independently empowers students to make their own reading choices, and it engages them in becoming an authentic reader—a reader who makes his or her own selections and decisions about reading.

What was your favorite childhood school library moment?

I remember having a very special feeling when our school librarian shared Chris Van Allsburg‘s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a read-aloud. This picture book is very mysterious with its black-and-white illustrations—each accompanied by a single line of text. It gave me a sense of peeking into a very different world, as if I could travel right into the pages and exist in those places.

What is your proudest moment as an educator?

When I read aloud to my middle school students or observe the classroom as students engage in reader’s and writer’s workshops, a sense of peace comes over me. I can feel the children settling into themselves and into the act of engaging with language. It’s a magical thing when there is that focus in the classroom—the world feels tranquil and right in those moments. We live in a world that can feel fast paced and unchanging, so it is a pleasure and a privilege to slow down and engage deeply with the spoken and written word.

In the coming weeks, look for stories from winning schools about their libraries and plans for the grant money.

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August 31, 2015