Kutztown Community Library & Kutztown School District join forces to encourage summer reading

Patriot photo by Steven Stolley Kutztown Community Library Director Janet Yost applied for a grant to join forces with Kutztown School District to encourage students to read during the summer.
Patriot photo by Steven Stolley Kutztown School District students can now find books on the school's required summer reading list at the Kutztown Community Library.

Kutztown Community Library and Kutztown School District have joined forces to encourage students to read during the summer. Books on the district’s required summer reading list are now available at the community library.

“Several years ago, we would see kids coming in for required reading books and there was no connection, no link between the school and the library, so they would come in, look for the book, and well, often it was their first experience in the library and they’d go away disappointed,” says Kutztown Community Library Director Janet Yost.

That might change this summer as KCL and the Kutztown Area School District team up to make the Kutztown Required Summer Reading program more attractive to students and parents alike, according to Yost.

She continues, “They’d be looking for a book, and we’d go, ‘Can we make a photocopy of that list?’ and at that point it was almost too late to purchase things so we could beef up the collection in those areas so they could get the books they needed.”

So Yost wrote a Library Services and Technology Act grant proposal in hopes of getting the necessary funds to remedy such problems.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education website at http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/library_services___technology_act/8738, an LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) grant is awarded to states with an approved Five-Year Plan. Pennsylvania’s LSTA Five-Year Plan includes goals allowing the Office of Commonwealth Libraries to assist libraries in linking to each other or to other information resources, to encourage the development of consortia and to increase information access for persons who have difficulty gaining it. LSTA funding may not be used for construction or renovation, projects that have already begun or operating expenses.

The $5,000 grant procured by the library has been used by Yost and her staff to diversify and clarify the Required Reading Program, making it more attractive for students of all reading levels.

Working closely with Kristin M. Haring, Kutztown Area Middle School’s 8th grade reading specialist in charge of the KAMS required summer reading initiative, and Alison Kocis-Westgate of the Kutztown Area High School Language Arts Department, Yost and her team of librarians have made the books available in a variety of formats – e-readers, regular print books, large print books and audio books – to better serve the needs of the district’s middle and high school populations. They also used some of the funds to print handouts with summaries of the books to aid each child in their selection process and purchased a few kindles, according to Yost.

“It’s an important link; there’s nothing worse than having the kids come in and not be able to find what they want, especially for first time visits,” said Yost about the benefit of this partnership between school district and library.

“I’m really excited to have this partnership with the community library,” said Haring in an e-mail interview. “The purpose and goal of this KAMS required summer reading initiative program is to limit the summer reading loss that many middle school students experience when not reading over the summer. Students will benefit because they will continue to foster the habit of reading outside of school as they are strengthening their reading skills and bolstering their love for reading. This is another way to get a novel into the hands of students at KAMS and get them reading.”

According to Haring, each grade level has created their own reading lists and assignments based upon the reading lists. The assignments are to be completed and returned the first day of school. Sixth graders must read one book, seventh graders two and eighth graders two, one written by Jordan Sonnenblick and one history-related book.

Haring said that, for the eighth graders, the hope in having them read a history-related book is for the students to gain exposure into a time period of history and build their schema about this time period to help them make connections within the classroom.

The hope in having them read a Jordan Sonnenblick novel is to have the eighth graders read and witness a character learning a life lesson or multiple life lessons. In the English and Language Arts Department at the Middle School, life lessons are addressed at all grade levels to aid the students’ development as young adults, according to Haring.

Haring also said that each grade level reading teacher will grade the assignment based upon correctness and completion. The summer reading assignments are considered assignments or projects. This category makes up a certain percentage (25 to 50 percent) of the first quarter grade. In sixth grade, the overall reading grade is an average of the four quarters. In seventh and eighth grades the overall reading grade, is calculated by a combination of the average of the four quarter grades and the mid-term (5 percent) and final exam (5 percent). Students who fail to complete the assignment receive a zero.

Kutztown mother and Kutztown Community Library Clerk Joanne Englehart agrees that the program is valuable, saying, “I am passionate about reading! Anything that promotes reading or makes reading more attractive to children is something I want in my community. I believe this project is necessary at Kutztown Community Library and want to thank Mrs. Yost for her relentless work in finding funds to make it happen.”