DC Virgo Preparatory Academy Hopes to Spark Joy in Reading While Building Literacy Skills through Inspire Special Event Grant

At D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy (DCVPA), we focus on four pillars that drive school decision-making: Social and Emotional Learning, School and Community Resiliency, Literacy, and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support/Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support. A needs assessment of the school community given by the literacy pillar showed a need to create a literacy-rich culture that promotes the joy of lifelong reading. The AASL Inspire Grant will allow us to accomplish this by providing a comfy space with contemporary book titles by people of color, which we hope will spark joy in reading while building literacy skills.

The plan is to work with both the school’s literacy pillar and classroom teachers to help integrate these resources into the classroom through recreational reading book clubs. Each book club set includes multiple copies of a title, a pamphlet for more information about the author, a summary of the book, a list of suggested titles, guided discussion prompts and/or activities, and bookmarks. We plan to create a comfortable area in the school’s library for students to freely browse the book club sets to see what is available, and provide a space for them to relax, read, and have discussions.

In addition to the comfortable seating provided, there is also space for the students to create promotional reading material (posters, bookmarks) for other school community members. We would like the students to reflect on the readings by creating book trailers to share with other students to encourage them to check out that book, create their own promotional book/author posters, or some other creative options, as well as offer feedback on other types of books they would be interested in reading. We want the space and the work done within it to be student driven.

DCVPA serves students in kindergarten through eighth grades as a laboratory school connected to the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Part of the school’s mission is to connect with university and community partners to provide enriched, real-world learning opportunities for our students. It is our hope that we will be able to bring in pre-service teachers, university faculty and staff, and community members to join in our book clubs. We would love to have guest facilitators participate in the book discussions to share their personal perspectives.

While we hope for academic gains in literacy, our larger goal is for students to immerse themselves in engaging stories that provide them opportunities to learn about themselves and gain perspective on the wider world. Rudine Sims Bishop states:

Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of a larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.

We wish for this space to be vibrant with reading, exploration, discussion, and purposeful activity. We wish for our students to utilize this space and the stories within it (those in the books and from each other) to make connections to themselves, their peers, the wider world, and the books themselves.

Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters – the saints and the sinners, real or imagined – reading shows you how to be a better human being.

― Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

Author: Jodi Hebert and Melissa Raymer

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