When Collette Fearon began the 2019-20 school year as New Beginnings Family Academy’s new Elementary School Principal – she knew right away that literacy would be at the forefront of her impact on the school. When she observed the literature and library resources available at NBFA, Fearon knew something had to be done.
“When I saw the classroom libraries, they were very limited; our kids didn’t have a large selection of books for independent reading,” Fearon said. “In order to call ourselves a school that is promoting reading, we need to be modeling that and ensure we are providing our students access to rich texts.”
Hence, a school-wide book drive was born, with the goal of adding 3,000 books to NBFA’s classroom libraries.
“I started with the book drive because I truly believe reading is the gateway to all learning,” Fearon said. “When you learn how to read you can access every other content area…math, social studies, science. In order to become capable, competent readers, our kids need to have a plethora of books at their fingertips.”
It became evident early on that NBFA would go above and beyond the 3,000-book goal. Thanks to the generosity from dozens of individuals and various local organizations – the book drive brought in over 5,000 new and used books.
Over half the books came from Wonderland Booksavers, the Westport National Bank book collection at their local branches, the Cos Cob Library, Friends of Bridgeport Library, New Haven Reads and Books 4 Everyone.
Various libraries, schools and churches, along with local families and NBFA parents contributed significantly to the book drive as well. NBFA was incredibly grateful for the response, including the time and support from members of the Jack and Jill of America – Eastern Fairfield County Chapter.
“I think people understand the power of reading and how by supporting literacy you are transforming lives, as it leads to eventually breaking the poverty cycle,” said Fearon of the drive’s overwhelming success. “When people hear that we have a school in need of books, they get the importance of reading and making sure the kids have the resources they need.”
With that influx of books came opportunities for Fearon to get creative. That culminated in NBFA’s new shared book space. That space houses a large collection of leveled texts, ready for teachers to sign out in order to better accommodate the unique needs of each individual child.
“In any given classroom, there’s a range of reading abilities and to meet students’ reading needs you have to have appropriate texts,” she said. “When teachers sit with students in small groups they have to make sure they have the right level of texts based on those kids’ individual needs. It’s something I had in previous schools, where we had shared book rooms so teachers have a multitude of texts to choose from to plan differentiated instruction for students.”
NBFA’s reading specialists Abbey Assunto and Judith Keklik – along with one of our new teachers, Jacquelyn Kesner – were instrumental in sorting through the thousands of donated books and leveling and assembling the shared reading space.
“Our reading specialists by their very nature are big reading advocates and saw how valuable this book drive was to help build our students love of reading,” Fearon said. “It’s critical to the work we’re doing here to increase student achievement in literacy.”
The teachers now have the tools necessary to promote literacy, but that’s just step one.
“This is just one small piece of this huge undertaking,” Fearon said. “We will continue the work we’ve started while developing and building the knowledge and capacity in teachers through professional development around how children learn to read.”
It’s a challenging road ahead but Fearon is determined to realize her literacy-based dream at NBFA. The successful book drive in year one was quite the inspiring start.