Living Democracy

Delivery Day: Collinsville Public Library distributes books to local elementary school

The sun was beaming, and the bags were sealed as staff at the Collinsville Public Library and the elementary school distributed over 130 free books to second and third graders.

Each student received at least eight hardback books, including fiction and non-fiction, and many bi-lingual materials to aid in story sharing with their parents.

"To see them smile and see the joy in their hearts about receiving those books was like that little, small payment that says 'what you are doing matters.' It just ties back into what is our purpose of getting students to read," said Jacob Brown, principal of Collinsville Elementary School. 

The drive was made possible by a $5,000 grant provided by the Loan Syndications and Trading Association. It was written by Jennifer Wilkins, director of the Collinsville Public Library, and Corey Wills, third-grade teacher at Collinsville Elementary School. 

"The purpose of writing the grant was to improve reading proficiency for elementary students attending second and third grades at Collinsville School," Willis said. "It was a great opportunity to provide our students with quality reading materials to add to their home libraries and to encourage a love for reading outside of the classroom."  

She added, "The target population includes both students and their families who will benefit from the success of this grant. It's a great opportunity to spend quality time together away from technology and devices. "

Along with printed materials, students received stuffed animals, referred to as "book buddies," to encourage them to read without the judgment of others in hopes of increasing their reading fluency and accuracy.  

Since becoming the principal in 2020, Brown placed emphasis on reading for the betterment of students. Brown said during the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, 95% of Collinsville elementary school students showed deficiency in reading, meaning one or two grades behind. However, at the end of the academic year, only 58% of students show a reading deficiency due to additional literacy programs. 

"It's been proven that reading works, and it is important because it is the foundation for everything else they will encounter," Brown said. "We must remember that the other things that we do in school stem from their ability to read. For example, we have many word problems in math, and if they can't read the math word problems, they will not be able to complete assignments and comprehend."

Brown said it was essential that students and parents had access to print material despite the current poverty rate in town, which is 31%. He said he is "appreciative" of the giveaway and wants to provide more books free of charge to increase student literacy rates. He said his goal is to acquire as many books as possible to build an affordable home library during the summer vacation. 

The idea derived after Brown and other administrators read a 2019 study, Scholarly culture: How books in adolescence enhance adult literacy, numeracy, and technology skills in 31 societies. In the study, researchers discovered that students who grow up in book-filled environments benefit in their future educational development, job placement, and overall attainment.  

Brown said Collinsville Elementary School would continue to work with the public library to host more book drives for students during the upcoming year. He said seasoned educators and local community resources should continue to assist in student development, particularly with literacy.

"If we want children to lead our nation and our country, it starts in the books, and there is no way around that. I would even go as far as to say that it is up to us who have been reading for decades, teaching language arts and nearby media centers, to ensure that children receive the latest children's books on the shelves. Furthermore, we must work patiently with them if we want to see results and ultimately produce strong, next-level readers," Brown said.

By Laney Mayfield
Last Updated: May 25, 2021