Will fund new library for New Horizons
SIKESTON -- A federal grant to help establish a library media center at New Horizons alternative school has been awarded to the Sikeston R-6 School District.
On Monday the district received news it would be receiving from the U.S. Department of Education a $187,979 No Child Left Behind Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program grant to improve students' reading achievement.
"Two years ago, two schools in the state of Missouri received the same federal grant. Last year no school in Missouri received this grant. This is an achievement," said Jackie Cowan, who assisted in writing the grant for the district.
Approximately 700 districts nationwide applied for the grant so it is quite competitive, Cowan said. This year's recipients included only two other Missouri schools and 85 school districts in a total of 28 states, U.S. Department of Education officials said.
The Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program provides funds to help schools improve their library media and address the reading and other literacy challenges of their students.
"One of the cornerstones of No Child Left Behind is the assurance that all children will learn to read at grade level. School libraries play a critical role in this by providing children with books and other literacy resources so that they can strengthen their reading skills and achieve at high levels," said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in a recent news release.
The addition of the New Horizons Library Media Center library program will improve the reading scores and state assessment scores of the approximate 185 at-risk students who attend the school.
Two part-time library media specialists will cooperate with classroom teachers to teach information retrieval skills and provide enhanced reading opportunities, said Dr. Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent in charge of secondary education and the implementation of this grant.
Cowan, who just finished her first year as a retired librarian from the R-6 district, will be one of the part-time library media specialists for the district's new program.
"A large majority of students (at the alternative school) have very poor reading skills, and research has shown a good school library can increase those skills," Cowan explained.
Students are placed at the alternative school for a variety of reasons -- from performance on standardized tests to the inability to do well in school due to behavior problems, Cowan noted.
And students often fall behind in credits because of other problems and some of the students who attend New Horizosn can't always get to school and are simply trying to get a diploma as best they can, Cowan said.
New Horizons Principal Lynn Crader said, "We conducted an informal survey about how much reading material was in the home and it was very telling. It showed these students simply do not have access to reading materials when they leave school, many do not visit the public library and many households don't subscribe to the newspaper."
Currently there are no library resources at New Horizons, Crader noted. So these past couple of years the alternative school has borrowed books from the other libraries in the district.
"Sometimes it gets hard to send things back and forth so this should be a great support to the staff and to the students over there," Crader said.
Since New Horizons first opened in September 2003, it has been in an evolving state, and the library was not part of the original plan, Cowan said.
"As the school has grown and developed, it's become more organized that the need certainly is there and the teachers need the support of library resources and the children, of course, do, too," Cowan said.
This grant will help to establish the New Horizons Library Media Center. Library books, periodicals, equipment, and supplies will be purchased to support the curriculum and attract the interest of the diverse school population.
Funds can be used to increase library holdings, improve schools' technological resources and capabilities, facilitate Internet links and other resource-sharing networks, enhance teachers' professional development opportunities and expand hours of access to library services.
When the district first applied for the grant two years ago, school officials originally considered housing the library in a large classroom in the main building of the alternative school or at one of the nearby mobile units that has a computer lab, Cowan said. These facilities are still an option for the new library, she said.
But before anything can be done there will be a lot of coordination and talking with teachers and staff, Cowan said.
"Materials will be determined by curriculum needs because we need to purchase materials the students need and teachers use," Cowan said.
The goal is to open the library to students by Thanksgiving, Crader said.
"It's a great opportunity for these students to enhance their reading skills and also open, hopefully, a love for reading," Bohannon said. "Instead of reading being a chore, it will become something they'll fall in love with and make a life skill, which only will be limited by their imagination."