According to the U.S. Department of Education website, students who report having more books in their homes performed better academically. To give students in need the opportunity to enjoy a summer of reading, the West Windsor Plainsboro Education Association (WWPEA) applied for and received a Pride in Public Education grant from NJEA to purchase books for students.

The association planned to use the $6,000 grant to purchase five books for each of the 240 students who are unlikely to be able to afford new books for the summer. Pride chairperson Debbie Baer mentioned the grant to Assistant Superintendent James Earle while working together to distribute food to the families of students who normally receive breakfast and lunch at school. “I suggested to him that there might be Title 1 money that could be used to match our grant and provide the 240 students with 10 books each,” said Baer. “He wholeheartedly agreed! That gave us $12,000 so that the kids could each get 10 books for the summer.”

Baer wasn’t finished. As a Reading Recovery teacher, she knows all too well the effects of “Summer slide” on students who have no access to quality reading materials. She talked to her supervisor about using funds from the district’s Title III grant to provide summer books for the district’s ELL students. After reaching out to Assistant Superintendent Pam Nathan, she learned the district would match the $6,000 for 120 ELL students to each get 10 new books.

“We’ve worked collaboratively over the years to build relationships with our administration and it really paid off for our students,” added Baer. “We turned our $6,000 grant into $18,000 to purchase new appropriately-leveled books for 360 students so that they have something interesting to read over the summer.”

She noted that Scholastic and other book suppliers have deeply discounted their books due to school closures which increased their buying power. One or two staff members from each school is working to identify appropriate reading levels, collect addresses of students, and ensure siblings in the households are also included.

“Our grant blossomed into something three times as good because we partnered with our administration to do what’s best for our students. It’s so heartwarming to me to work in a school district where our superintendent, David Aderhold’s leadership encourages us ALL to work together in providing the best educational opportunities for our students!” she concluded.

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