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!

Let’s Read!

Did you read the Boxcar Children books as a child? They were first published in 1942 and written by Gertrude Chandler Warner about four orphaned children who create a home for themselves on an abandoned train car. Eventually, they are united with the kind [& wealthy!] grandfather who moves their beloved boxcar to his backyard so the children can use it as a playhouse. Gertrude Chandler Warner passed away in 1979 but her stories live on in a great new adventure series, starting with Journey on a Runaway Train!

Beginning February 19, you are invited to join the entire JPS family in reading this wonderful story together as a family. Your child will bring home an order form in their Friday Folder tomorrow and you can order the book for just $1! If your family reads two to three chapters each week, the story will be finished by the end of JPS Reads on March 16. Elementary Media Specialist, Jan Staley, knows how important it is to create a love of reading by practicing it as a family. “Reading together as a family, creates a strong foundation for literacy in your child’s life.” Also, by reading the same book as a community, “we help to create a shared reading experience for all of our elementary school families.”

If you, like Gertrude Chandler Warner, are intrigued by the idea of living on train car, then you will love the adventures the Alden children find themselves in this story! The children have been recruited by a secret society where they are tasked with returning ancient artifacts and treasures to their rightful locations, taking them all over the world! After finding an ancient painted turtle, they board a train to return it to New Mexico where it originated. To complicate things, however, they must deal with people who would rather the painted turtle is not returned home! Find out what happens with your entire family this month!

One difference in this reading initiative is that you won’t hear a lot about the book in your child’s classroom. “For this project, we are hoping that the value of literacy and reading out loud as a family will be carried into homes.” So parents, put on your “teacher hats” for a few minutes each night this month and join in the fun of reading together!

This story is incredibly accessible for kids of all ages. Most second and third graders will be able to read it on their own, but the story is fun for everyone. The littles will love following along with the adventures of the main characters and even your older kids will love the nostalgia of being read aloud to. It’s also a great opportunity around the dinner table to have a family book discussion about what everyone thinks might happen and highs and lows of the story so far. Your family can tailor the adventure to work for you!

We hope you will join JPS and The Boxcar Children as they take off on their latest mystery and your family finds its own adventure in reading together!

Look for the order form tomorrow and start reading on the 19th!

 

#JPSReads Update!

Guest Reader, Janet Schultz, at Sandy Hill!

We first told you about #JPSReads earlier this year and phase one is now complete! To kick things off in mid-January, District Media Specialist, Jan Staley, and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz, presented the plan at each elementary school with a slideshow, magic tricks, and Q & A. Students were provided with a participation sheet to set a personal goal that correlated with their grade level. Once their goal was met, they received a cling-on paw print to display in a window of their home. Every family member could participate and once a goal was met, you could set a new goal!

This could be your house if everyone is reading!

Teachers and principals across the district encouraged students to meet their goals and share what they were learning as they read and explored new genres and topics. Ms Staley was encouraged by one elementary school, in particular saying, “The principal did a fabulous job keeping the excitement going.  He interviewed students every day who had met their goals, asking favorite books, places they read, etc.  This school also had participation contests within the grades.  This excitement from the principal and teachers spread and the number of student goal forms were the highest in the district.” Numbers are still coming in from the Junior High and High School but so far, there is record of over 1300 participants!

Guest Reader, Deputy Eric Smith at Pinewood!

March is Reading Month across the country and #JPSReads is hitching up to it for phase two! Please check out the March Reading Month Calendar here. Students can be challenged with a new reading task each day and be entered to win the grand prize at the end of the month!

Finally, phase three of #JPSReads will take place at the end of the school year and, while there are still some details to arrange, it will involve a secret “Paw Patrol”! Staff members from the district will be driving around the neighborhoods looking for homes with multiple #JPSReads paw prints displayed and they will receive prizes!

Ms Staley says she loves hearing the stories from students about how their entire family has been involved with #JPSReads, even turning in goal sheets for their grandparents! “The students often have reading incentive programs that they are working on throughout the year, but the exciting thing about #JPSReads is seeing them get excited about their parents reading!! It really has touched many families in our community!  Over and over again, our volunteers, and parents that have come into our buildings have mentioned that their whole family is having fun with this, they love reading and working toward this goal together.”

Guest Reader, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink

“Reading is not just a “school subject”, that it takes a community’s commitment to raise our readers. We want to continue our district’s vision to build rich literacy skills at home as well as at school. Research proves that Readers are Leaders! Reading helps relax us and keep our minds active and growing. Reading also improves our thinking abilities, people skills, and helps us master communication in order to effectively collaborate and lead others. Grab your favorite books and start reading today!”

If you have questions about any of the phases of #JPSReads please ask your child’s teacher! Thank you to all of the families that are participating and we can’t wait to see more paw prints!

Guest Reader, Deputy Steigenga, at Bursley