Book program gives a boost to Belle Morris

Josh FloryOur Town Youth

A group of Belle Morris Elementary students got an assist with their summer reading on Monday.

Earlier this school year, the Great Schools Partnership provided a $10,500 grant to educators at Belle Morris. That funding allowed 60 students to pick out $125 worth of books, which they received at a celebration on Monday, May 19.

The idea came from fourth-grade teacher Olivia Cates and was based on research that found children with access to books were less likely to see academic declines over the summer.

Cates said another key to the program is that students were able to choose their books, from a list of nearly 340 titles. “Choice is motivating,” the teacher said. “Everybody loves to have a choice, so they’re more likely to want to read them if they have choice and ownership.”

On Monday, students who came to pick up their books were greeted with a confetti cannon and encouraging words from Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas, who urged them to spend part of their summer vacation reading.

Besides taking home books, participating students will have the chance to meet four times during the summer for book-themed events, including activities related to STEM learning, the arts and Zoo Knoxville.

Library media specialist Louanne Nicely curated the list of books that students could choose from and said popular choices for younger students include the “Fly Guy” series by Tedd Arnold and David Shannon’s Caldecott Honor Book, “No, David!”

The most popular choice for first- and second-graders may be the “Elephant and Piggie” series, which was written by Mo Willems, an author and illustrator who is also known for Caldecott Honor Books such as “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” and “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale.”

“They really love Mo Willems,” Nicely said of her students. “He’s like a big superstar.”


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