The fifth grade class at Lincoln Elementary filed into the school’s gymnasium on Monday morning.
They sat down on a section of the bleachers in the corner of the room.
Spread throughout half the basketball court in front of them were nearly a dozen bookcases, filled with books of nearly all types.
Science-based books about subjects like sharks or weather were there.
Other books that were graphic novels were there.
There were non-fiction and fiction books. The variety was wide, and the focus was narrow. There were a few bookcases with books for pre-K classes through first grade, another for second and third and another for fourth and fifth grades.
The Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation was in town, and the books were from the Opportunities with Literacy (OWL) Fest.
OWL Fest spent the previous two weeks touring 19 priority schools in Shelby County. This week, they’re touring priority schools in Jackson, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga with the intent of reaching children who are behind on their reading development.
Each student was allowed to take six books from the appropriate bookcases home with them to keep.
The notion was something some students didn’t believe at first, according to one GELF official.
“We’ve had some kids ask when they were supposed to bring the books back, and we had a couple who were handing us money,” said Felicia Fowler, who was at a table at the end of the gym checking books out as students picked their selections and made their way back to their seats in the bleachers.
Fowler said some of the kids were using the opportunity to start book clubs or working together to form larger collections of books.
“We had some kids who were getting the same book, and when they found out some of their friends had picked out the same book, they said they were going to read the book and get back together and talk about it,” Fowler said. “And then there were other kids who were working together.
“Maybe two children would want the same two books, and they worked together with one of them getting one book, the other getting the other book and then they both still have five books they could get and they planned to trade as they read through them.”
Lincoln was selected to be a part of the program because they were a priority school last year, and all schools in this year’s tour were on the priority list last year. But Lincoln is a Level 5 school this year, so the hope is this will only help the students build on that reading development of the past year. Jackson Careers and Technology also got to shop the books at OWL Fest.
“At LES, we promote academic excellence in all areas and the OWL Fest will give us an opportunity to support this vision through reading,” said Lincoln Elementary School Principal Annie Atkins.
Patrice Martin, who’s the director of Turnaround Schools for Jackson-Madison County Schools, has similar hopes for the students.
“Lincoln Elementary scholars are making great strides towards building strong early literacy skills,” Martin said. “Owl Fest will further expand our scholars access to grade-level text, reinforce the importance of reading, and promote reading at home.”
Brandon Shields, email@example.com