AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant Making Middle School’s Library More Relevant

“YO SOY KINGSBURY,” printed in large block letters, is a favorite T-shirt design among our students and faculty. The literal translation, “I AM KINGSBURY,” reflects the pride we feel for our school. The language choice reflects the pride we feel for our community, our Kingsbury Middle family.

Kingsbury Middle School, sharing one short block with Kingsbury Elementary and Kingsbury High, is in the heart of a working-class neighborhood in northeast Memphis. This community has one of the most diverse populations in our city. It is a mixture of African Americans, whites, and Hispanic immigrants. The majority of school-age children in this neighborhood are Hispanic. Over a third of the adults were born in another country, and Spanish is spoken in just over half of the households. We are intensely proud and grateful for our Kingsbury family and the opportunity to serve in such a richly cultural community.

It is important for a school library to reflect and complement the school community. At Kingsbury Middle School, that translates into a library collection that not only supports the district and state curriculum but also meets the needs of a diverse student population. Since many of our students enter Kingsbury Middle School reading below grade level, the mission of our school library to promote literacy and to partner with our teachers to impact student achievement is crucial. In addition, we know our collection must be relevant to our students’ lives and experiences. To support this mission, Kingsbury Middle School was awarded a 2018 AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant, funded by Marina “Marney” Welmers. Our school is thrilled and excited to have this opportunity to add much-needed resources to our library collection.

There is an emphasis in our district, as well as across the nation, on ensuring that all students are engaging with complex text and learning grade-level content daily. We believe a well-developed and up-to-date library collection that supports the curriculum, particularly in science and social studies, is integral to achieving that directive. Unfortunately, our collection has an average age of 14 years and has not been properly developed to provide research resources on the topics our students are studying. A teacher’s request for books about rocks and minerals yielded only three resources–and one of those was 43 years old. This illustrates the critical need to update and improve the collection to more effectively supplement classroom instruction and positively impact student achievement.

In addition, our collection must reflect our community. Last year, one of our ESL teachers came to me because his students wanted to know more about their Hispanic heritage. He requested a variety of relevant fictional stories, informational books, and biographies to discuss with his classes. Given the limited selection available, it was apparent we needed to intentionally select more books that reflect our diverse student population. Particularly in a middle school, students need books that reflect and affirm their unique life experiences.

Kingsbury Middle School is honored and grateful to use the funds provided from the AASL Inspire Collection Development Grant to build up our library collection to include up-to-date books, selected specifically for our students’ reading and interest levels, that reflect both our students and our curriculum. The ultimate goal is that our students improve in literacy, as well as their understanding of science and social studies. We fully expect that, with the help of this grant and continued diligence to promote our library as an invaluable resource, we will be successful and the pride we have for our school and our community will continue to grow. ¡YO SOY KINGSBURY!

Author: Leann Dowty



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