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Literate spending spree

Published Feb. 23, 2006

Getting more books and magazines - good stuff that students might actually want to read - into classrooms was the focus of a grant that the Citrus County School District has secured.

Written by program specialist and grant writer Karen Stofcheck and director of curriculum and instruction Tom Curry, the matching grant provides each of the district's middle and high schools with $4,657.71. Another $2,000 was allotted to the Renaissance Center.

Teachers in all disciplines had access to the money to help them build classroom libraries.

"We want to create classrooms that are print rich," said Kit Humbaugh, program specialist for secondary language arts and reading. "We are encouraging nonfiction materials and texts that are on different levels, that are related to the content of the subject."

But, Humbaugh pointed out, the materials purchased should be of interest to the students so they will actually want to pick them up and read them.

These classroom libraries are not just meant for language arts classes. Teachers in all subjects are encouraged to build their classroom libraries.

"Reading coaches" are teachers on special assignment who help teachers organize reading materials.

They can provide "additional support to teachers relating to their specific subject areas," Humbaugh said. "They are gathering a lot of important data on students and sharing that with all teachers across the curricula."

Reading coaches were in only two schools during the last school year. This year there is one at each middle and high school. Three are shared by the elementary schools.

The grant money came from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations with matching funds provided by the Citrus County Education Foundation. School and community relations specialist Pat Lancaster facilitated the match between the two groups. For the four years that the county has been getting the matching grant, Humbaugh said, Lancaster has been the one initiating it.

Humbaugh and Stofcheck plan to survey students and staffers later to find out if the classroom libraries motivated kids to read more and to further assess the interests of students for future reading resources.

"I think our district is really doing a good job with this reading initiative that has taken place," Humbaugh said. "I think it's a good thing."

Lecanto Middle School student Alexander Orgill, 12, right, shows a book to classmate Kenny Arnold, also 12, during the book pass, a time when students examine a book for a few minutes and decide whether to add it to a list of books they'd like to read, and then pass it on to the next child.