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Horizon third-grade teacher Cassie Cotter displays the books she was able to share with her students last year thanks to a Plymouth Education Foundation grant.

Foundation grants enhance reading efforts

Posted February 21, 2022

The Plymouth Education Foundation is helping the Plymouth School District mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, generously using its grant program repeatedly during the past two years to support student literacy.

“Technology is a fixture in many of our students' lives, and Covid has only tended to increase that time,” said Assistant Superintendent Dena Budrecki. “Providing engaging books related to student interests is an activity that is ‘screen free.’ It is also a strategy in aiding any loss of literacy skills from the early days of the pandemic.”

Since 2020, the Plymouth Education Foundation has received and granted six requests related to reading initiatives. These grants, totaling $3,886, support unique and creative ways to reach students in the evolving new normal:

  • Caught Reading Program: $500 for Sandy Lemahieu, Riverview library media specialist, to purchase books to award students "caught" making the choice to read during free time.
  • Literacy on Fire: $466 for teachers Lori Brown and Judy Woelfel to purchase books so the 2020-21 virtual schoolhouse could have its own book clubs.
  • Creating a Passion for Reading: $475 for Horizon third-grade teacher Cassie Cotter to give each student a copy of class read-alouds during the 2020-21 year to help make them feel more connected and to help build their personal libraries and – most of all – their love for reading.
  • Inspiring Reluctant Readers: $500 for Riverview reading specialist Tanya Strauss to purchase books about sports, hunting, and fishing for those students having difficulty finding books that interest them at their reading level. 
  • Battle of the Books: $535 for Horizon Principal Justin Goffard to have his school join the Battle of the Books statewide reading competition this spring, providing an enrichment opportunity that motivates kids to read a wide variety of genres and stories.
  • Books for All: $1,410 for Riverview seventh-grade teacher Sara Turenne to purchase books about high-interest topics, the social issues that teens are facing, and survival stories that correlate to science and social studies.

A recurring theme for the grants is the use of books to stay connected. During the 2020-21 school year, Mrs. Cotter was looking to build community safely in her third-grade classroom. “One way to do this was to be a community of readers by reading a shared text,” she said. The foundation mini-grant enabled her to purchase four class sets of books, which the students were able to keep.

“This meant that for the remainder of the year we could come together while still staying apart,” she said. “Not to mention we were able to allow students to build their own libraries with some meaningful and familiar texts. It was a true win-win of creating a classroom community and readers!”

Books also helped unite the students in the elementary virtual schoolhouse offered during the 2020-21 school year.
Teachers Judy Woelfel and Lori Brown purchased copies of at least 16 different titles, including “Grumpy Bird,” “Duck on a Bike,” “Strega Nona,” “Calendar Mysteries: March Mischief,” “Stealing the Sword,” “Ivy and Bean: One Big Happy Family,” and “A to Z Detective Camp.”

The books, which were included in the monthly packets provided to families, allowed teachers to offer guided reading groups, Mrs. Woelfel said.

“The students were thrilled to not only have actual books in their hands (when so much of their schooling last year had become digital), but just knowing they were the first to read the books made it even more special,” she said. “Thank you to the Foundation for honoring our grant request and partnering with us to make a difference for our students!”

Learn more:
• Read more about the Riverview Books for All initiative.
• Learn more about the Plymouth Education Foundation grants program.
• Visit the Plymouth Education Foundation website at plymouthedfoundation.org.