Emphasis Placed on Library Resources for Washington D.C. Schools’ P.R. Harris

Written by Jason Thomas for www.schoolsk-12.com

In 2006, more than a fifth of the students from impoverished families within the Washington D.C. schools were reading below basic levels, according to the Washington D.C. schools’ No Child Left Behind (NCLB) report.
Without an adequate reading ability, these Washington D.C. schools students will not only do poorly throughout their elementary and secondary schooling, but they will experience greater difficulties in life, as well, especially in finding a decent job. You must be able to read well to succeed. It is an essential life skill.
The Washington D.C. schools’ P.R. Harris Education Center had a library that was in need of a facelift. Serving 750 elementary through middle school students, 84 percent of its student population is considered economically disadvantaged. The average for low-income students within the Washington D.C. schools overall is 66 percent. That means, according to the Washington D.C. schools NCLB report, a large portion of the students at Harris is reading below basic levels.
Seeing the importance of the library at Harris, the Heart of America Foundation’s READesign program gave the library a much-needed renovation through a $100,000 donation and volunteers from Capital One Financial. The foundation is a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy for low-income children.
The Washington D.C. schools’ library at Harris reopened in early March with freshly painted walls, computers and brand new books for an expanded library collection. There were new shelves, carpeting, and a brightly colored rug for the younger students to enjoy. The new furniture included height appropriate tables, armchairs and café tables for teens. Not only has the library been redesigned to encourage literacy, but it is now a place for students of all ages to hang out.
About 500 students, parents, friends, Washington D.C. schools educators, and volunteers from Capital One and READesign gathered for the reopening celebration. Principal Jeffrey Grant spoke of his appreciation to Capital One and READesign. He said that such a good library was important to increasing the literacy and reading level of all students who attend Harris.
Long-time Washington D.C. schools’ teacher Elizabeth Carroll said she has been teaching at Harris for 19 years and knew the previous library books were very limited in scope and totally outdated. The library will make it much easier for her to give student assignments, knowing the children now have the resources to do them.
The majority of low-income students do not have access to proper reading material at home. When Washington D.C. schools parents find it difficult to put food on the table and a roof overhead, spending precious dollars on books just does not happen. So, READesign went a step further and provided five new books for every student at Harris for them to take home. They also provided two books for every student in their classrooms.
Additionally, the Washington D.C. schools district is sending resources to Harris parents that will help them encourage their children to read, and the Washington D.C. schools’ teachers at Harris will be learning how to incorporate the library resources into their lessons plans.
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