By JEROD CLAPP
Rather than sifting through box after box to find a book, students at Corden Porter School have their own library for the first time.
What’s more is that they weren’t simply given a library, they wanted one.
Students and staff dedicated the new library Friday morning. Between a surprise naming on the eve of a teacher’s retirement and heartfelt testaments of the reading program from students, the ones who worked to bring the library to the school showed that there’s a lot more to come for its future.
Bunny Nash-Gardner, principal, said the whole project began when teachers tried to get students more excited about reading to not only help them succeed academically, but beyond school.
“It really has changed the culture of our school in regards to reading,” Nash-Gardner said. “It’s something they do naturally rather than something we make them do.”
Betty Thomas, a reading interventionist at the school, said about a year and a half ago, the school worked to form a partnership with the Jeffersonville Township Public Library to get students more interested in reading.
After reluctance on the part of students began to wane, they found out they couldn’t get enough to read.
“It just kind of got on a roll,” Thomas said. “As students get better at reading, they read more. We had many students that didn’t finish a book on their own before this.”
Students would go to the library and pick out a book on their reading level, reading about two hours a week.
Lori Morgan, a youth services librarian at JTPL, said as students finished more books, they started asking her and another librarian, Laura Bjornson, for more books like what they just finished.
“The fun thing is that as the year went along, we developed a relationship with the students and watched them grow,” Morgan said. “It’s been fun to see them get excited about reading. It’s like I’ve always said, if you can read, you can succeed.”
But more than finding something they liked reading, Thomas said the program got results. Out of 50 students who participated, 46 of them raised their reading skills by at least one grade level.
But Diana Muller, a teacher at the school, was also instrumental in getting the program going and getting more books for the school. As she worked with the library, other schools in Greater Clark County Schools and individuals, she wanted to get a place where students could easily find books on their own grade level on campus.
And so, on her last day with the school Friday, the group dedicated the library in her name.
She said she was overwhelmed by the honor, but was quick to recognize the people who helped her get the library in the school.
“When a great idea comes up, they just come together to make it happen,” Muller said. “Everyone could see what was happening, kids were reading, talking about reading and writing more.”
Billy Cornwell, a junior at the school, shared his experiences with the program. He said before, he didn’t have much of an interest in reading. But in one year’s time, he said he read more books than he ever had in his life, requesting more from his favorite authors and finding more that he’d enjoy.
But with a library on campus, he thinks more students at the school will have similar experiences.
“We don’t always get to go to the library,” Cornwell said. “Now students will be able to come here and get books on their own.”
Muller said though she’s retiring from the district, she’ll stay involved with the book discussion club on Thursdays at the school and other fun activities.
Nash-Gardner the public library was a big help in getting the project completed.
“Reading has become something that is very dear to our students and staff,” Nash-Gardner said. “We thoroughly enjoyed having a partnership with the library to find ways to make reading special to us each and every day.”