K-3 classroom libraries in Cass County grow thanks to local grants, donors

Published 10:20 am Monday, March 11, 2019

CASSOPOLIS — Lewis Cass Intermediate School District recently announced a partnership with United Way of Southwest Michigan and Chemical Bank focusing on providing resources and professional learning necessary to raise literacy capacity of educators and students within the local school districts.    

Over the next three years, United Way of Southwest Michigan and Lewis Cass Intermediate School District have joined together granting $300,000 to provide the resources needed to ensure K-3 students have access to well-stocked classroom libraries. 

“Classroom libraries are key to promoting literacy and increasing student motivation, engagement, and achievement,” said Karen Thornburg, instructional specialist and early literacy coach for Lewis Cass Intermediate School District. “Creating a purposeful and effective classroom library ensures students [have] access to various genres, authors, topics and levels of high-quality text rich in language and vocabulary. In turn, immersion in text deepens students’ knowledge of the world around them and builds capacity of literacy.  Books cultivate students into problem solvers, analytical readers, and productive citizens.  With the right tools and scaffolding put into place, we set students up for success and create strong literate beings in Cass County.  We are shaping our future one book at a time with our classroom libraries initiative.”

With the necessary tools in place, appropriate professional development and support for effective use of the classroom libraries is being provided to K-5 teachers within the county, she added. 

Chemical Bank has made a donation of $2,000 supporting the purchase of the Essential Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy booklets for all K-5, teachers and administrators county-wide.  The Essentials Practices in Early and Elementary Literacy strongly guides and supports the work of Michigan educators towards improving children’s literacy using research-supported instructional practices, said ISD officials.

The Essential Practices promote developing rich classroom libraries and supporting educators with the professional learning needed to effectively use the materials and resources granted.  Professional learning around classroom libraries, ranging from organization of space to using the library for instructional purpose, is set to be presented from LCISD and Scholastic Education. 

“We are making sure teachers have the tools needed to build rich classroom libraries, and we want to make sure they are given the professional learning support needed to use the tools to the best of their abilities.  It’s about doing whatever it takes to support student’s literacy growth,” said Brent Holcomb, Superintendent of Lewis Cass Intermediate School District.    

The classroom libraries initiative is in year one of implementation. The first round of ordering and delivery of books is currently taking place. K-3 classroom libraries will grow approximately 300 texts during this first year adding non-fiction/informational genres spanning five grade levels of text within each classroom.