By Art Garcia
Books are the heart of Read Fort Worth’s Classroom Library Campaign, an initiative developed with Fort Worth ISD leaders to ensure that young students and teachers have easy and equitable access to high-interest, culturally-relevant books throughout the school day.
The Classroom Library Campaign delivered 1,000 new, durable and culturally-relevant titles to young readers and their teachers during a special back-to-school event Tuesday, Aug. 14 at De Zavala Elementary School. Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner, TXU Energy representatives, campaign supporters and De Zavala staff members, students and parents all took part in stocking classroom shelves with the goal of nurturing children’s love of reading.
“We’re very fortunate in Fort Worth to have a great collaboration, not only with our schools, but also with our business leaders, our elected officials,” Scribner said.
The Classroom Library Campaign has raised more than $160,000 in gifts and commitments to date towards its goal of providing 100 new books each for pre-K through second-grade classrooms at about 40 high-needs, Fort Worth ISD elementary schools. A generous supporter has challenged the Fort Worth community to raise at least another $100,000 by Sept. 30, 2018, to qualify for a matching grant that will double the impact of gifts to $200,000.
“We’ve discovered that the classrooms just don’t have enough books,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, who serves with Dr. Scribner on the 12-member Read Fort Worth Executive Council. “The teachers are buying them on their own, and many of them can’t do that. This is something the community can do. Even if you can’t volunteer at the schools or can’t mentor a child, it’s a great way to get engaged. Give a little bit of your resources and help buy books for children.
“Talk about it and encourage children to read. It’s critical for our city and our county.”
Contribution levels range from $25,000 to provide books for pre-K through second grade classes on a single campus to $6,000 for a grade level, $1,500 for a class or $15 for a single book. Donations may be made through campaign partner the Education Foundation for Fort Worth Schools at http://readfortworth.org/donation or by check. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The De Zavala book delivery was the second such event for the Classroom Library Campaign, as donors delivered 1,200 titles to Sunrise-McMillan Elementary School in May. Students who are immersed in print-rich learning environments with books within easy reach are more likely to have an early affection for reading, research shows.
“Our kids have an opportunity for additional resources that we normally wouldn’t have in the classroom,” De Zavala Principal Vic Eugenio said. “Obviously, each of the library classroom sets provides so much for the kids. It gives them excitement. They’re able to access and practice and apply what they’re learning in class. And when you have high-quality books, it excites the kids and fosters a love of reading.”
The books chosen for De Zavala were reflective of its diverse population, with varied subjects represented in both English and Spanish. Nearly 70 percent of De Zavala’s enrollment is Hispanic; 18 percent of students are African-American. More than a third of students have limited English proficiency.
“We are rich in diversity,” Scribner said. “We have multiple languages, students from all over the world. Almost half of our students come from a home where English is not the primary language, so that’s a great advantage. We’re rich in diversity and want to make sure our students read in more than one language.”
De Zavala parent Ursula Duron Nunez volunteered her time to stock shelves, while also reading with her son Steven Jr. in English and Spanish on the eve of school next week.
“It’s important for kids to have resources available, especially when it’s a reflection of themselves, of their culture,” Nunez said. “I think the kids are going to enjoy it. The teachers are very appreciative, and this is an awesome thing.”
The Classroom Library Campaign is one of several strategies Read Fort Worth has implemented to engage the community in Fort Worth ISD schools and provide young readers and their families the support they need to succeed in school.
“Students in our system are learning to read until the third grade and then they’re reading to learn,” Scribner said. “That’s why it’s important we have a literature-rich classroom and we’re focused on getting all students reading, 100 percent, on grade level or better by 2025.”