- Editor's Note: This is a re-publication of Batavia School District 101's Friday feature: "Power of Collaboration: Batavia Public Schools, Batavia Public Library and Batavia Apartments join forces to benefit young readers."
On a recent summer morning, Andrea Woods once again found herself sitting on the lawn outside Batavia Apartments surrounded by dozens of young readers who rarely stepped foot inside the local library – and that made her smile.
But, then again, it’s hard not to smile at the image of young children sprawled on colorful blankets or reclining under shady trees; eagerly exploring new worlds through books the Batavia Public Library brought directly to them.
“It made me feel good that making a few phone calls helped bring more books and create more quality reading time with our students,” said Woods, a teacher at Hoover-Wood Elementary School.
Thanks to her collaboration with Batavia Apartments and Batavia Public Library, Woods made a special arrangement that enabled children in the apartment community to participate in the library’s Summer Reading Club.
A statewide initiative, the Summer Reading Club encourages young people to continue reading during the summer to maintain the skills they acquired during the school year. Participants are given the opportunity to read on their own or with someone else and record the minutes they’ve read in their reading logbooks. At specific intervals, participants would bring their logbooks to the Batavia Public Library to collect prizes as they achieved the reading goals they set for themselves.
“When I went to Joy Sobczak with this idea, it was such an easy sell. She does an amazing job with the families at the apartments,” Woods said.
According to Sobczak, the Resident Service Coordinator at Batavia Apartments, transportation challenges, scheduling conflicts and other factors sometimes make it difficult for students to participate in the Summer Reading Club, which required visiting the library to borrow books, turn in logbooks and collect incentives.
“We’re a huge supporter of the library and always promoted the Summer Reading Club, Sobczak said. “Anytime we can bring a program to the property, it makes it easier for residents to get involved."
With Batavia Apartments on board, Woods made a call to Batavia Public Library. Plans to bring the Summer Reading Club to Batavia Apartments quickly began to take shape.
“They were instantly on board and just needed a start date,” Woods said.
Joanne Zillman, Head of Youth Services and Deputy Director of Batavia Public Library said the library has been fortunate to develop a relationship with Batavia Apartments over the years.
“The development of this relationship - this collaboration - has really worked out well,” Zillman said.
For nearly five years, the Batavia Public Library has worked with Batavia Apartments to distribute baby bags filled with children’s books to mothers of newborns through the library’s Born to Read Program. Almost two years ago, the library also established a book depository in the community room at Batavia Apartments. The library regularly replenishes the depository with books that have been donated to the library.
“Collaborating with Batavia Apartments on the Summer Reading Club was a natural next step,” Zillman said.
Woods said collaborating with several of her colleagues was also critical to launching and sustaining the reading program this summer.
She quickly gives credit to the other teachers and paraprofessionals across the school district who consistently volunteered their time to read with the students and support their reading goals this summer, including: Karen Costello, Greg Fink, Shannon Hemmes, Julie Johnson, Emily Keane, Dianne Knight, Ellen Lacher, Elaine Modene, Julie Murphy, Anne Pappas, Laurie Ringe and Cari Sindelar.
“It felt great to see the amount of teachers willing to get up early on their summer vacation to read to our students,” Woods said. “It felt even better to see the amount of students that were also getting up early to read with us.”
According to Zillman, it was the teacher’s collaboration and commitment to reading with the children that was one of the primary factors in the library’s decision to offer the program at Batavia Apartments.
“There was a commitment on the teachers’ part that made it very reasonable and approachable for us to make our commitment,” Zillman explained. “Because we weren’t the only draw for those kids; those kids were seeing some of their teachers; and they were making a connection with them during the summer time.”
Allison Blaetz, Youth Services Librarian and School Liaison at Batavia Public Library, supported Woods and the other teachers by selecting library books for the children and bringing them to Batavia Apartments each week during the Summer Reading Club.
“I would roll up with my giant bags, the teachers would come and then the kids would help set everything up. It was so fun to see kids spread out all the books and pick what they wanted to read and then find their favorite teacher and read with them,” Blaetz said.
Sometimes, Blaetz joined the teachers outside on the lawn or pulled up a chair in the community room and read with the children, too.
“It was definitely a very rewarding experience,” Blaetz said.
Blaetz believes it was a rewarding experience for the children as well - and not just because of the incentives the children received from the library throughout the program.
“The children were really interested in reading and I think part of their motivation was seeing their teachers and having someone who wanted to come and devote time to reading with them,” Blaetz said.
Another motivating factor was having reading levels that the children set for themselves that they needed to reach.
“They chose their own minutes; how long they would read,” Blaetz explained. “So, it was tailored to each child. Big readers could pick 45 minutes and kids just learning to read could choose 15 minutes.”
The students then tracked their progress in their logbooks and received a prize as reading levels or milestones were met. After successfully completing the Summer Reading Club, the children received a new book from the Batavia Public Library with a note inside that recognized them for meeting their goals.
“Getting prizes was fun for the children. But the most important thing was that they had something – a piece of paper - that they could use to say, ‘this is what I did!’ That was a really good reinforcement for them to feel a sense of accomplishment,” Blaetz said.
Of the 2,193 children in Batavia who signed up the Summer Reading Club, 200 of them attend Hoover-Wood School. There were 34 children that participated in the program at Batavia Apartments, including some who were not yet enrolled in school.
As Zillman reflected on the partnership between Batavia Public Schools, Batavia Apartments and Batavia Public Library, she said it was a cooperative effort that worked really well.
“There was a lot of interest in making this collaboration happen,” Zillman said. “There was a very welcoming environment at Batavia Apartments and an interest in somebody coming in and doing this. The teachers were very interested in coming and spending their time and getting the kids involved. The library was a great vehicle because we ran this program anyway and it gave us the opportunity to offer the program to Batavia Apartments. So it really was the perfect combination.”
Woods and Sobczak agree with Zillman and look forward to the possibility of collaborating on another Summer Reading Club for residents of Batavia Apartments in the future.
“The program really made a difference,” Sobczak said. “It really made an impact.”
SOURCE: School District 101