No. 879



Some time back I received a terrific article by e-mail from one of my readers, written by Justin Minkel, who teaches second and third grades at Jones Elementary School in northwest Arkansas. Justin is an award-winning teacher, as he was named the 2007 Arkansas Teacher of The Year. In his article, he talked about a highly successful literacy project that he has developed in conjunction with Scholastic Books. It is called “The 1,000 Book Project,” where he provides 25 students with 40 books each during the time they are in his second- and third-grade classes.
Here are his words, “The project was simple to launch. Scholastic donated 20 books per child, and I purchased the other 20 through a combination of my own funds and help from others in the community. The kids received three types of books each month: copies of class read-alouds, guided reading books, and individual choices from Scholastic’s website. Working with family members, each child chose a space to become a home library, ranging from a cardboard box decorated with stickers to a wooden bookcase. Through class discussions and our class blog, the students talked about everything from how they organized their libraries to their favorite reading buddy at home.
“These 25 students made more progress in their reading than I have experienced with any other class. By the end of the project’s second year, they had exceeded the district expectation for growth by an average of nine levels on the DRA and five points on the computerized Measures of Academic Progress reading test. The home libraries have also had a tremendous impact on each child’s love of reading, which has ignited that same love of books in their parents, siblings, cousins and friends. I watched child after child become a different kind of writer, thinker and human being because of his or her growth as a reader.” It is obvious that the home library has had much to do with the project’s success.
As I read this article, I realized that here was a winning formula for literacy. The formula contains three major factors that insure success.
These are: No. 1, THE AVAILABILITY OF BOOKS. This is why a home library is crucial to each student’s success, and this is especially true for children in low-income families.
No. 2, THE BOOKS WERE SCHEDULED, TO ARRIVE AT REGULAR INTERVALS. These books started with a low reading level and advanced to a higher level as time went by. This way his students had time to read the books over and over again to grasp the story or concept without feeling swamped.
No. 3, THE PRIDE OF OWNERSHIP, which is a big deal for children who have few, if any, books in their home. I heard about an elementary student who cried when she had to return books to the school library.
This is the same formula our copyrighted Bookcase for Every Child project is based on. However, we work with pre-school students to provide them with a personalized, oak bookcase. We also have an annual Bookcase Literacy Banquet to raise funds and an annual Awards Ceremony. We also generate lots of community involvement to include an ever-increasing number of our local citizens in the war against illiteracy. Our goal is to encourage parents, grandparents and others to give these disadvantaged children good books at special times during the year to build their very own library.
In praise of Justin’s good work, we should never minimize the power of a wise and gifted teacher. We need more great teachers like him, all across our nation.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)