This year's Nice Grants program was filled with requests from Indianapolis Public Schools teachers seeking funds to help improve their classrooms. It is heartbreaking to see how many of these locations are in need of supplies, technological and otherwise, that could improve the student experience.
Susan White, an 8th grade teacher at Daniel Webster #346, had a request that stood out from the pack. She had mentioned that she was frequently disappointed with being unable to provide her students with books they could keep. Most 'Boxers are big readers, and we know that a love of reading helps create the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. We just couldn't say no. After all - it's for the children!
I spoke with Susan this week about the project and the feedback she has received from her students.
How did you hear about Nice Grants and what led you to apply?
I learned about the grant from the IPS Education Foundation. I will do anything to put books in the hands of kids. So many times when we read a book in my class, students wish they had a copy of their own. I try to pick books that kids can relate to, so they become favorites. I hate it when I can't give away my class copies.
How many books have you given away?
I have given away 91 books.
Are there any books that are more popular than others? What types of books do your students like to read?
As stated above, many students wanted a copy of their own of a favorite book read in class. Many titles seem to be young adult books about teen topics. In the younger grades (I was able to offer to five, six, seven, and eighth grades) they seem to want more classics - Sounder, Winnie the Pooh, Goosebumps, etc.
Are there any books that stand out as unique?
A fifth grader wanted the original Wizard of Oz. Tupac's poetry book, A Rose Grows In Concrete also comes to mind as different.
What feedback have you received from the kids?
They got really excited when orders started coming in. I kept getting notes asking me if there was any more book money because someone wanted a book. Several students said they did not "order" the first time because they thought there was going to be a catch (book report, etc.) if they got a book. A young man was so excited because he had read 8 of 9 in a book series and was able to order the ninth from me. He was jumping up and down when he was called to my room to get his book. Kids loved sitting at the computer with me and finding books. By this I mean that several asked for BMX books, for example, but no specific title. We sat together and looked at Amazon and read book reviews before selecting. Probably the best feeling was that kids could order what they wanted, not what they could afford. One young man wanted an expensive book, to his way of thinking, and did not think I would order it for him. The smile was worth every penny!
I must say that I got way more out of this than the kids did. It was so much fun being able to "grant a wish." They really did start calling me the book Santa.