On Monday the Sikeston R-6 alternative school officially opened its newly established library media center as some students were able to check out reading materials.
"We've been dreaming about this ..." said New Horizons Principal Lynn Crader. "Studies show access to reading material improves reading skills." An open house for students, parents, administrators and teachers will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Visitors should check in at the front desk before visiting the library.
Since September the library's media specialists Jackie Cowan and Kay Rebstock have ordered materials and prepared supplies, equipment and books to be used by teachers and students at the school, which is located at 534 Moore St.
So far about one-third of the estimated 5,000 total materials have arrived, enough to open the doors and begin lending the books, magazines, videos and audio books to students and staff at the school.
Before the new library, there were no library resources at New Horizons so teachers have had to purchase their own or borrow books from other libraries in the district.
"Teachers have been very good and are very excited because they've never had something of their own," Cowan said.
The New Horizons Library Media Center is funded through a U.S. Department of Education Improving Literacy through School Libraries grant, which was awarded to Sikeston schools last fall. The grant, in the amount of $187,979, is designed to improve the reading abilities of students in the program by establishing a school library.
Approximately 700 districts nationwide applied for the grant, and this year's recipients included only two other Missouri schools and 85 school districts in 28 states, Crader pointed out.
"The library media specialists have bent over backward to accommodate the teachers and students' needs," Crader said.
Shelves are divided into to different sections including reference, magazines, fiction and nonfiction. They're also classified as books for everyone or books for secondary students.
Rebstock said they also ordered classroom sets of particular novels for some of the older students in case there's a book they want to read at the same time.
"A lot of the books for the older students are career books," Rebstock said. "We thought these students should be aware of all the opportunities available after high school."
When writing the grant, Cowan said she budgeted for equipment the school didn't have. Now teachers have access to overhead projectors, a TV and DVD player, to name a few.
Three computers -- two programmed with the library's automated catalogs and one with an online database -- sit in the library. The library also connects to an existing computer lab.
But the library's budget didn't allow for furniture. Cowan and Rebstock are using two round tables and a couch already in the unit, which was being used as a storage facility. And extra bookshelves from the Middle School's new library were moved to New Horizons' library.
"This is great," said teacher Cortia Williams as she looked around the new library on Monday. Williams brought some of her third and fourth grade students in to check out books.
"They were excited about the new library," Williams said. "Reading is important in a child's life."
Williams said the library will come in handy for her students, especially when they write essays, book reports and other writing assignments.
"I like to read books," said fourth grader Richard Johnson, who checked out "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" book and CD.
Working in a library is nothing new for the two specialists. Rebstock worked as a library media specialist in the New Madrid County R-1 School District for over 30 years; Cowan worked as a library media specialist at Sikeston R-6 for over 30 years. Both women came out of retirement to work part-time at the library.
"It's been fun," Cowan said about preparing the library. "I have never developed a library from scratch."
But Rebstock has. She helped create the library at the New Madrid County R-1 Middle School years ago.
The retired librarians said they complement each other.
"I worked at the (Sikeston) junior high and high school and Kay was a librarian at all levels -- from K-12. She has a pretty good idea of what kinds of books the younger students read and I have an idea of what the older ones like," Cowan said.
The school accommodates about 150 third through 12th graders in an alternative setting.
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.
"Our goal is to get students to read and improve their reading scores," Cowan said. "We want the nonreaders or poor readers to become better readers so they are more confident when they return to their home schools."