New York State Library

Division of Library Development

Regents Advisory Council on Libraries

The Joseph F. Shubert Library Excellence Award 2004

Cortland Junior/Senior High School Library

Parent-Child Book Club

1. a) Briefly describe your library or library consortium (system) and the community it serves. Provide information about size, budget, type, users.

The Library Media Center at Cortland Junior Senior High School (JSHS) is the hub of school activity. We provide services to staff, students, administration, support staff, and the school community. Our facility houses over 15,000 volumes and averages 120 checkouts a day. The facility is staffed with two full-time library media specialists and five assistants. The library's expenditures are based on a $15. 25 per pupil allocation. Cortland JSHS is in an urban district with high student needs in relation to district resources; 19.8 % of the students are classified as special education and 25.6% are eligible for free lunch. Cortland's population of almost 19,000 people has a current unemployment rate of 10.2 % and an average family income of $30,000.

1. b) Briefly describe your project/achievement.

The Library Media Center in collaboration with an 8th grade English Teacher established an 8th Grade Parent-Child Book Club. The book club was successfully implemented in November of 2003 with regular monthly meetings. Students and parents attend once a month to receive and discuss the current book selections. Our events are well attended; on average 20 participants attend. New participants join every month, while the regulars are always present and excited to receive the next book selection. The library wrote and received a mini-grant, which enabled all participants to keep a copy of each book read. The Book Club focuses on the 8th grade, however it has been such a success the current members want to extend into the ninth grade as well.

All Book Club participants have excelled since the program's commencement. Students have gained critical thinking skills as they analyze and state opinions of the story, discuss authors and genres and relate the books to life experiences and current times. Collaborative thinking and the exchange of ideas and reactions occur often between the adults and students. Parents and students have learned about each other through discovering their thoughts on the books, i.e., likes, dislikes, and joys, sadness, etc.

The library was able to tap into a coordinated author visit; students had the opportunity to meet an author of one of our book selections. The author of Fever, 1793, Laurie Halse-Anderson, visited our school for a day, allowing our book club members to participate in face to face
discussions. Laurie Halse-Anderson generated a lot of enthusiasm about books and reading. She discussed the writing process and several author techniques with the students.

2. How did you identify the user need(s) for your project?

The original concept of the program began with the concern of an 8th grade English teacher who began noticing a decrease in his students' recreational reading. After brainstorming and coming up with the Book Club idea, which we based on our pursuit to foster interest in literature at this critical age, the realization occurred that this program could help assist with several other school community needs, including the following:

3. What did your library or library consortium (system) do to respond to that (those) need(s)? What challenges were met?

The Book Club became the tool to meet the above-mentioned needs, however in order to implement it, we needed to make the school community aware of the program and our efforts. At our Junior High open house we showcased the first book selections and had sign-up sheets in the library as well as the 8th grade English classrooms. An article was then featured in the local newspaper. The press proved successful; the first night's program was well attended and the books (we chose two) were well received.

The next task was to decide upon the titles for the rest of the year and find the funds to purchase them. To find titles that would appeal to the students and get them excited about reading, we needed to know what the favorites were among our age range. Reading reviews written by kids, instead of only reading professional reviews was one strategy we used. We also polled some of our dedicated readers. These tools proved advantageous, because our selections have gone over wonderfully!

The library purchased the first round of books, and the district matched those funds for the following month. However, 5 more months of supplying books remained. The library applied for and received a mini-grant from our local Teacher Center. Wisely purchasing discounted books has allowed for us to continue the Book Club until this May.

4. What impact did this project have on your users and/or your community? Supply quantifiable data if appropriate.

The book club has benefited all involved. Many indicators show that our student participants have become independent recreational readers. The selected books and subsequent discussions have introduced our students to other cultures, and different points of view. The monthly meetings enabled the discovery of their parent's feelings and thoughts on several issues. This program has made the students better prepared for the English and Language Arts Exams and more excited to read and talk about books; their desire to extend the program into their 9th grade year is proof of that.

The teachers and librarians involved now understand that great successes result from collaboration. We have been reminded how creative, empathetic, strong and intelligent preteens are. And we now know the proper ways to implement a successful program and are excited to see the program continue to grow.
The parent participants have a higher regard for the different roles the school library plays in the school community and how it can benefit their children. They have also been given the rare opportunity to see their child in a different environment and hear them speak about issues that may otherwise never been raised.

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