Book Buddies on the Bus

Last fall, a conversation was started by a concerned parent. One that I’m sure many of you have experienced within your own family. How much technology is too much? And while devices and access to technology can be good (you’re probably reading this on a pocket sized device right now), how do we protect our younger students from dangerous activities and content, and promote positive alternatives to screen time? And as an administrator, how can we support best practices while our students are in our care?

After months of research and conversations, I am happy to support our Jenison transportation team as they have introduced a “No Electronics” rule for our elementary school buses. Our district decided to allow the students to keep their devices in their backpacks (eliminating the potential for lost/stolen items or inappropriate use); and saw this as the perfect opportunity to go one step further to give the students something different to occupy their time.

1407983375a21e0fb59775f62b4fa111462224b3.jpg

Screen Shot 2019-05-09 at 1.17.25 PMI’m excited that a simple yet impactful solution was born. Working with the Transportation team on this idea, Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum followed the ‘Classroom Library’ strategy and worked with Scholastic to provide 25 buses with bins of books for the students to read while on the road.  

The bin contains books from a wide range of reading selections, appropriate for Kindergarten through 6th grade. Accomodating all readers including comics/short stories, nonfiction and more  for even the shortest bus rides. It is exciting to continue to encourage a passion for reading and life long learning; we’re already seeing very positive reactions and an outpouring of parent support.

140798462e0b154610057ef1cc788fd81427c3daProviding books for all students has encouraged them to read to themselves or with their seat partner and teachers in the classrooms have been hearing about which books they are choosing while on the bus. Bus drivers report that students have been excited to board the bus and get the books they want! The book bins are available during the traditional before and after school bus routes as well as field trips and any other times the buses are in action.

MIII4628After implementing this program, one driver shared that it was the first time since the beginning of this year that the older grade students were engaging in conversation and actually getting to know each other rather than being glued to their screens. Overall, this change has created a calmer atmosphere as students are not clamoring over the seats to see what other students are watching, listening to or playing on their gadgets.

14079852061aeefc7bd246ea772e8f5e4832ef6d

Jill Brower, Penguin bus driver

Jill Brower, Jenison mom and driver of the Penguin bus for El Puente and Kids First, considers herself a concerned parent when it comes to technology and is grateful for the book bins. She loves to see the excitement on the kids’ faces when they get on to see which book they can get next – as they are swapped out weekly. Older students on her bus are embracing the concept as well – often bringing their own books from home and sharing with friends. She has had a great year with her students and she loves getting to know them and creating a respectful riding environment. She has introduced “Whisper Wednesdays” – so students can read aloud but only by whispering. “It sometimes lasts just a few minutes but the kids all get a kick out of it and some students ask if we can do Whisper Wednesdays on other days too! I love my students, we have so much fun and I’m happy to see them engaging each other more and diving into the books!”

One of my favorite outcomes of this change comes from the Penguin and the Dino busses who are reporting a grassroots ‘book buddy’ program starting to form. Older students showing interest in sitting up front with the younger kids to interact with them and read to them. Readers are leaders and readers are who we are in Jenison – whether we’re in the classroom or on the road!!

It is our fundamental belief that the successful education of our students is dependent on a positive partnership between parents, teachers, and administrators. When you think of all the obvious school partners and resources, please don’t forget the support teams and your child’s bus driver! I am proud that our transportation team and our 30+ daily drivers are every bit of an extension of the commitment I feel for our students in regards to their academics and mental health and wellness.

Get connected with all the news from Jenison Transportation.

Transportation Services Letter to Parents – New Electronics Rule

Learn more about our Jenison Classroom Libraries.

1407984499e054dacda3fcce53c7ee7ed3a2769d140798510360b099887e4be701d12e830e82e1e3140798567839c19ba4b74689e91adf0f488dd6181407985708b94e766790ae8560417e104d4ebfa4

 

 

 

 

Cultivating a Love for Reading

There’s often talk about how teachers pour so much time and energy into decorating and designing their classroom experience. While some may think this is simply for fun, there is deep purpose and intention behind every detail. We know in order to stay true to our mission to build generations of lifelong learners, a love for learning and a culture of literacy must be developed as a foundational principle right from the start. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the recent addition of our Classroom Libraries is much more than a Type-A pleasing, color coordinated, neatly organized, book-nook tucked in the corner of the classroom.

Kristy Rogalla, our District Curriculum Director and a team of our teachers and literacy coaches, have been working behind the scenes on a multi-year journey to provide each and every classroom with a mini library of its own. Many hours were dedicated to the selection process, ordering, receiving, and cataloging long before they were delivered and teachers could start their organizing fun! Efforts started at the elementary level, and the focus continues to grow and expand into classroom libraries for all kids, in all classrooms.

1326695142ba049dad74157d3d8a9e65b470a24b

1st graders in Kelly Osterink’s class at Rosewood Elementary enjoy choosing their own books for independent, structured reading time.

Two years ago, the team began to build robust classroom libraries and has worked to add to them this year, with future plans to continue. Considering state education expectations; book selections have been targeted for high interest books, at a range of reading levels (meeting students where they are) and choices that include fiction, non-fiction, science and social studies. Diversity is a key focus so students can see themselves in books and find reading enjoyable and relatable. The team also plans to add more interactive read-aloud choices for teachers and student books to support the work in Units of Study for Reading. 

132669468cd79bec71be52823f973543ea171940.jpg“The development of the classroom libraries also helps for when new teachers are hired or teachers move grade levels. This allows for rich student experiences with a variety of texts in whichever classroom family they may belong.  Equity is important in this journey.” – Kristy Rogalla, JPS Director of Curriculum

13266890c7530a6df70d28fd7ecb92cfb7e9a425

 John Scholma’s 4th graders from Bursley Elementary have been devouring new books from the classroom library.

We have heard great stories of success with all the books that have become available. Our teachers have responded gratefully for the resources and have seen a love for reading that is organically growing. Students of all ages are engaged and motivated to read, not necessarily for a reward, but for the love of reading. We find the Classroom Library project to be an uncomplicated way for us to invest in our students daily and further our mission of building generations of lifelong learners. I applaud the efforts of Kristy and her team over the last few years and look forward to seeing this foundational program grow and evolve; setting our students up for success at school and in life.

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Harry S. Truman

132670515eeeb7219f7d9b399514f6edc1a25cba

Some of Jane Brown’s High School English Students; we have seen students of all ages growing a love and passion for reading with all the books that have become available in the Classroom Library program.

 

1326686154f14db4fa2120ecac8e1f94d2ce273b

Junior High Spanish Immersion students in Clare Chamberlin’s class have really enjoyed their classroom library to sharpen their second language skills. 

1326685713240eb12a5fae7f68f0b5a1743b490b132668459ecef9fbd343896872f62ae79321f494

IMG_8376

Lots of planning, ordering and sorting work is done before our amazing JPS teachers get their hands and creative brains busy on their custom classroom libraries! These pictures are from this past summer; High school shipment being organized and new Units of Study curriculum ready for delivery.

Jenison paw print

 

Volunteers Keep Elementary Libraries Humming!

Diane Avink, Carolyn DeJong, Jan Staley, Becky Hilbelink

Elementary Media Specialist, Jan Staley, has many amazing superpowers: she can recommend the perfect book for any age, lesson, or situation, she can bring a smile to a student’s face by knowing what they’ll love, and she knows every story in the library inside and out. But there’s one thing she can’t do: she can’t run all five elementary libraries on her own, especially on a part-time schedule. But every superhero knows you need a sidekick, and Jan has 65! Every elementary school in Jenison has dedicated library volunteers who work every week to make sure our students have access to our amazing books!

Bauerwood volunteers, Carolyn DeJong, Diane Avink, and Becky Hilbelink have been volunteering in the libraries for between nine and thirteen years! They all got their start when a note went home asking for parents to volunteer in classrooms and they eventually made their way to the library – and haven’t left.

Becky worked as a special education teacher and took a step back when she had children so she knows the importance of school libraries. She also volunteered in her daughter’s classroom and found herself at home in the library. When she first started, her son [now in fifth grade] was in Kindergarten and he when he wasn’t serving as the library mascot of sorts, he was sleeping the back room. [It takes a lot of energy to be a mascot!] Becky is a dedicated Bauerwood volunteer outside of the library as well. She serves as the volunteer coordinator, organizes Watchdog Dads, runs the recycling program Teracycle, and she still volunteers for the classroom teachers.

Longtime Bauerwood volunteers Nell & Joe Abramajtys

The love of the work is what keeps these volunteers coming back year after year. Diane says, “It’s fun to watch the kids grow up.” And Becky adds that her passion for making sure kids experience an actual book in their hand [as opposed to a tablet or other technology] and has been known to dash over to her house – next door to Bauerwood – and grab a book from her personal library if the school doesn’t have it and a student is requesting it. Carolyn says that she loves getting Kindergarten students excited about reading in the hopes that their passion carries on over the years. And all the volunteers know books to recommend if someone comes to them and doesn’t love reading- yet.

Oftentimes, students will ask the volunteers for recommendations. Becky loves to suggest Harriot the Spy, Mr Popper’s Penguins, and Boxcar Children. Diane loves the Little House on the Prairie books. They love to ask the students when they return the books, “tell me what you thought” and see the excitement in their eyes at having discovered something new – especially the classics.

The library volunteers across the district stay very busy with a variety of tasks. As new books arrive, certain volunteers like Diane are in charge of cataloging them in the computer, checking books in and out, shelving, inventory, occasionally reading to classes, managing library cards, running overdue reports, organizing incentive programs like JPS Reads, and helping every student feel comfortable in the library.

Carolyn feels it’s especially important to help students cultivate a love of books and she takes the time to notice which students might need a little extra encouragement in this area. Becky agrees, saying that the library is a safe place for kids to come and explore. “Kids love coming to the library and it’s a wonderful connection to the community. A love of reading can start with the kids and draw parents in.”

Ms Staley knows that the personality of the library volunteers help shape the experience for children. For example, Sandy Hill parent volunteer Amanda VanMaanen begins each week with a whiteboard drawing straight from a page of a great book. Volunteers spark interest in books for students and make sure they know there is always a story to meet their passions. “Our volunteers love kids and love books. Kids have graduated and come back saying that they loved reading because of their experiences in their JPS libraries.”

Thank you Ms Staley, for dedicating your life to books, reading, and the wonderful ways reading enriches our lives! Thank you to all of the 65 JPS library volunteers who make a class trip to library something to look forward to! You are keeping our students interested and engaged in reading, changing their lives forever!