Griffin Middle School is located in a suburb on the northwest side of Atlanta, Georgia. The population is diverse; approximately 60 percent of the students are Hispanic. Two years ago, my principal asked me to take on the role of reading literacy leader in our school. The goal was to increase student reading achievement by five percent in all grades. As the school librarian, I was enthusiastic to accept this leadership role, especially knowing I had the largest classroom and collection of books available to students. However, I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and reading literacy needed to include all stakeholders working passionately across all content areas.
I turned to our English language arts (ELA) academic coach, Rockette Anderson, to work as my co-facilitator. Together, with the support of our principal, Paul Gillihan, we created a team of twenty-four teachers and built a school-wide independent reading program for our sixth and seventh graders. The program, called Griffin Reads 30, allowed for thirty minutes of choice reading per school day with built-in reading strategies for teachers to model and confer with students. The first year was highly successful, and we saw an increase in reading inventory scores, and our students developed stronger reading habits. Additionally, our circulation statistics increased substantially, with more than 43,500 book check-outs for the 2018–19 school year.
As mentioned before, increasing our reading literacy achievement required everyone’s involvement, but we still needed the support of our parent stakeholders. As an active member of AASL, I discovered the application for the AASL Inspire Special Events Grant and applied in hopes of hosting our first-ever school family literacy night. I wanted to provide our parents with the opportunity to attend a conference-style literacy event where they would learn about Griffin Reads 30 and about content literacy. The Georgia Standards of Excellence has literacy built into each subject area, but many of our parents weren’t aware of this requirement and needed to be provided this information along with literacy strategies to support their students at home in each subject. I once again called upon our literacy team of teachers to help develop and facilitate the family literacy night, but we needed funding, and while I had applied for the grant prior to our first event, the funds, if granted, wouldn’t be available for the first literacy night. Luckily, our principal provided the financial support, but I knew if we were to host this event again, the Inspire Special Event Grant would be our only hope.
Learning about the AASL Inspire Special Event Grant was literally heaven sent. It aligned with our financial needs and allowed us to host a second family literacy night this year. I feel so honored to have been selected to receive this award. Our second annual family literacy night will take place on October 30 this year, and due to the funding from the grant, we will host author Laurel Snyder, who will introduce and discuss her new release, My Jasper June. Additionally, as a special preview for family literacy night, Matt Laney, last year’s family literacy night guest author, will return during the school day to share his new book series release, Pride Wars: The Four Guardians. Grant money will also allow us to purchase each of these wonderful books for our students, so they have the opportunity to read the stories in advance of the author visits and then participate in author signings during literacy night.
Our Griffin families will once again attend a conference-style event where they can choose among subject-area literacy information sessions hosted by content teachers. Grant monies will help pay for materials to create and facilitate a literacy gaming area with games that support literacy in all content areas, including social studies, science, and math. The games align with the Georgia Standards of Excellence and literacy curriculum taught in the classroom, and parents are provided with literacy game strategy guides to work with the students at home. Family literacy night is all about parents gaining an understanding of literacy: how it is taught in the classroom, how it is supported daily school-wide, and how they can participate in the learning process at home to help increase their student’s achievement. Along with co-facilitating the literacy sessions and games hosted by teachers, we also open up the school book fair during family literacy night and raffle off family literacy gift baskets purchased with grant funds that include books, bookmarks, and gift cards as it is vital to promote the importance of literacy and bonding as a family of readers. Students with the highest gains on the reading inventory are also recognized during an awards ceremony with the help of my assistant principal, Kacie Phipps. Finally, we invite vendor representatives to provide parents with hands-on experience of the literacy software programs our students use to enhance reading and content literacy.
The AASL Inspire Special Events Grant has provided our Griffin team with the opportunity to fully address reading literacy needs school-wide, across curriculum, and through the participation of all stakeholders. I sincerely want to thank AASL, Ms. Marney Welmers, Griffin administrators, teachers, and staff, along with my husband, Eduardo Quintana, who is a reading teacher at Griffin, for supporting our family literacy night initiative and sharing in the passion of helping to guide our students to become better readers, develop a love of reading, and become life-long readers.