Books and Excel Grants

Every year, the Foundation receives many, many requests for books – from librarians (of course) but also from teachers and counselors, and even from  a PE teacher this year! And they all start out pretty much the same … budgets are tight and our school doesn’t have enough money for books. Teachers tell us, that research shows reading is more effective at building vocabulary than the traditional vocabulary building activities.  Reading uses words in context that help students understand the meaning, and increases students’ ability to make these new words part of their own vocabulary.

Here’s a few of some of the book related grants that were funded this year:

Books for New Language Arts Program ~ Tamara Nedell, New Start High School

I am so grateful for the Excel Grant! It enabled me to buy books for my students from a series called NextText. The grant provided all students, ELL and Special Education included, the opportunity to read and enjoy classic literature. The grant gave these students the experience of novels such The Scarlet Letter and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Their subsequent written essays, class discussions and artwork reflected their understanding of the character’s conflicts, motivations and experiences.  The impact of these works on the students will remain memorable for years to come. Empowering struggling students, with the richness and depth of classic works, nurtures their understanding of the human experience. With your grant you have sown the seeds of hope for my students and provided them the ability and the capacity to continue to grow. HOPE, what a gift!

Creating More Excitement for Reading in 2nd Grade ~ Kimberlee Goodman, Parkside Elementary School

I was able to get several fun, exciting, engaging, and rigorous reading activities for my classroom. My students choose these activities daily and never get tired of the wonderful reading learning that they are doing through these activities. In my class I have kids who LOVE to read, kids who think it is OK, and kids who don’t like it at all! So, this grant has allowed me to buy some more resources to help ALL kids LOVE reading work in a fun way!

Goldilocks Says It’s “Just Right” ~ Jennifer Ferry, Southern Heights Elementary

Goldilocks Says It’s Just RightThe goal of the project Goldilocks Says It’s “Just Right” was to get developmentally appropriate leveled readers into the hands of our youngest readers. The funded project allowed me to purchase over 90 titles that our kindergarten and 1st grade students can read independently. I have many students that are absolutely thrilled to check-out a book that they can read all by themselves, and others who are very eager to show me all the sight words they see in the text. My goal now is to continue to show the students these titles, so that more and more of them will borrow them from the library to show their families that they are learning how to read! The grant has definitely made a difference for my students. Previously I had very few beginning level books in the library. Students were not interested in them because they were only about eight pages long and seemed very boring. This has now changed because of colorful texts, engaging characters, and fun stories which make the students excited to choose these books!

Goldilocks Says It’s Just RightOne story that I have shared over and over again is about a kindergartener named Dylan. Dylan came to kindergarten knowing no English, but was unstoppable when we first looked at the new books; he wanted to show me every single sight word that he knew. Throughout our time looking and reading the books he kept approaching me and showing me another word he had found. It is always so exciting for students and their teachers when they make the connection from letter recognition, to letter sounds, to recognizing whole words, and then reading. I am sure that very soon Dylan will be reading a whole book independently!

Learning to Read by Making Words ~ Kaia Tomokiyo, Southern Heights Elementary

With this grant, I was able to purchase new reading and word making activities for my students. The activities were even better than I had anticipated! These activities have allowed my students to work independently at new and exciting stations. I also have my classroom helpers use the Alphabet Knowledge kit to work one-on-one with struggling readers. I have gotten so many compliments about these activities – everyone wants to know where I got them! They are self-explanatory and easy to use, so I can have anyone work with students at the drop of a hat. My students love the reading comprehension small group activities. They are begging me to use them for station time. They are easy to use and the students can use them without much help. These center activities will be useful for me for many years to come! Thank you for making a difference for our youngest learners!

Let us Read in Our First Language! ~ Joanne Glasgow, Evergreen Campus

With the money from the Excel Grant, I was able to purchase 28 books in Spanish, Vietnamese and Somali. It was so much fun to share these books with the students! Even though I only have 2 Somali books, the girls were completely captivated with these books. Somali is a tough language to find because it is mostly a spoken language and there are few resources available. The Vietnamese translations of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” were also a hit. Every student left yesterday with a book in their first language under their arm.

Learning Language with Matt and Molly ~ Susie Beal, Valley View

Learning Language with Matt and MollyI have been able to allow the students in my classroom at Valley View the ability to act out several (about 5) stories with props so far. We have been doing each story for a month since they have enjoyed them so much. I have also been using the stories with my kindergarten students at Des Moines (who are loving them). Two of my students went from using single words to retell stories to using full sentences to retell the stories. Everyone loves Matt and Molly. In this program two loveable characters, Matt and Molly, help teach communication and language skills through short stories and simple routines. These communication skills include the following:  participation in group activities, sequencing, answering yes/no questions, answering wh- questions, and retelling stories.  I have used this program with nonverbal preschoolers, elementary students with Autism, elementary students who are learning English, and many others.  The skills they are learning through Matt and Molly are vital when it comes to helping these students meet the districts goal of 95% of children reaching benchmark by 3rd grade.

Literacy Listening Stations ~ Mary Saffold, Gregory Heights Elementary School

The sixth grade team set out to successfully implement listening stations into our everyday literacy program. The goal was to have the students compare stories they read to stories they heard on CD. We have accomplished this goal and feel that our students are better equipped to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment this spring. I have one particular student who is very intelligent, but she is dyslexic so reading is difficult for her. She has listened to two books on tape this year and enjoyed them. One of the books is a 7th grade level book, Esperanza Rising, and this child was able to be fully engaged and enjoy the story. The other story, Wonder, is a powerful story that the child read last year but struggled to understand because of their dyslexia and the book on CD made a huge difference.

Literature for Spanish Speaking Students ~ Angela Francois, Sylvester Middle School

Literature for Spanish Speaking StudentsStudents are able to read authentic and award-winning Spanish literature at their own level. Students are getting daily reading practice which build vocabulary. Students will learn about literature in the Spanish language. The class is conducted entirely in Spanish. The quality of our curriculum just made a huge leap. Students will now know the names of famous authors from their culture and how they write. Students will gain significant skills in every area of literacy. We are reading and writing poetry, reading aloud to each other, and gaining new vocabulary each day. In addition, we will do some cultural activities and art projects for Cinco de Mayo. All of these materials will be used for many school years to come, as we develop our World Language courses!

Students of Color Seeing Themselves in Books ~ Kirsten Gunn, Highline High School

Because of the Excel Grant I was able to purchase 28 new books for the Highline High School library. The books I purchased were chosen specifically because they have main characters of color or were about cultures reflected in my diverse student population. I want my students to have access to books that feature characters or cultures they can relate to and feel pride in. I was especially happy to find books with Samoan main characters or with stories set in Samoa. This has historically been a community underserved by our library collection. Because the library serves all of our students it can be hard to see the immediate impact of this type of grant. However, I do think that it makes a difference (even subtly) on students’ sense of belonging and personal pride to see books on display in the library that represent them.

That being said I have had a couple of great conversations with students about some of the new books. In particular, word is spreading about Telesa, the first book in a new supernatural romance series set in Samoa using Samoan mythology as a major story element. Last week a student came in looking for this book and although it was checked out and we had to place a reserve for her, she started telling me about the stories her grandmother has told her about telesa. Because I have read Telesa I was able to explain how it uses the traditional stories she’s heard and she got to share something really cool about her family and culture with me. I could tell she was excited to see this personal experience have a real connection to the school library. And, I was able to connect her with a different book of short stories/poems by Pacific Islander writers. She walked away a very happy customer!


Literacy for a Lifetime ~ Zoe Asprey , Hilltop Elementary School

Literacy for a LifetimeWe were able to purchase over 200 hardcover books from Usborne Books. These are fact-filled and vividly illustrated books on topics that range from animals, science and natural history. We got a $500 matching grant from Usborne Books! This grant made a huge difference in our Library (since budget cuts have impacted how many books we can purchase for students). We now have over 200 hardcover books in sets of six – that are used by over 25 teachers in our school. It’s hard to keep these gooks on the Library shelves – kids are enthralled by the pictures and the interesting facts presented in these books.

Excel Grants in the News: Hilltop Elementary School receives grant from Highline Schools Foundation – Thank you Zoe for sharing your story! We LOVE reading about us in the local blog!

How can you help? We welcome all levels of donation, whether it’s a one-time gift or a monthly donation – $5.00 or $500 – every gift is a GREAT gift and so much appreciated in support of the students and teachers in Highline Public Schools. Click HERE to make a donation today!

Since 1999, the Highline Schools Foundation has been supporting innovation and excellence in Highline Public Schools. Our funding priorities focus on programs to improve academic achievement, supporting college and career readiness, grants to teachers for engaging classroom projects, the arts, athletics, and programs that keep students in school and productive. Highline is a district full of need and opportunity. The Highline Schools Foundation is the only non-profit organization dedicated to all schools in our district—our goal is to help as many students as possible be successful!

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