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NEA’s Read Across America Public School Library Grants Announced

NEA President: Our students deserve modern and diverse materials, books, and libraries


WASHINGTON - November 03, 2016 -

NEA’s Read Across America congratulates schools from Maine to Oregon who have been awarded individual grants of $1,000 to purchase diverse books for their public school libraries.

The Read Across America Library Grants Program was created in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which destroyed or damaged schools along the Gulf Coast in 2005. NEA established the national program to provide much-needed funds and books to the devastated school libraries. Since then, the program has funded more than $500,000 in grants to restock library shelves nationwide.

Seventy-one schools were chosen from 131 applications received from NEA members across the nation. The entrants applied online and were required to explain, in detail, how they would use the grants to restock their school libraries. All applicants were from schools that serve disadvantaged students in schools that have at least 70 percent of the students qualifying for free or reduced school lunch.

“The imaginations of millions of students are ignited with the exhilarating magic that happens when they open up a good book,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “We have a responsibility to develop life-long learners. Our school libraries are one of the essential resources we must provide to ensure that all of our students succeed.”

NEA's Read Across America is a reading motivation and awareness program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, “Read Across America Day,” the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss. NEA's Read Across America also provides NEA members, parents, caregivers, and children the resources and activities they need to keep reading 365 days a year.

The 2016 NEA’s Read Across America Library Grants were made possible by a contribution from The Weinstein Company and Walden Media in connection with their film “The Giver,” based on the popular young adult novel by Lois Lowry. Donations from individuals or organizations to the fund are made through the NEA Foundation.

A sampling of how schools are using their library grants funds:

Whitley Elementary School, Mobile, AL
“Our school is an inner city school which students come from low income families. Library funds have been either very limited or nonexistent for several years, thus it has been difficult to keep our collection up to date.”

Warrensville Heights Middle School, Warrensville Heights, OH
“We will enhance our fiction collection since our budget is little to none and does not allow the library collection to stay up to date with the most current titles.”

Flagg Street School, Worcester, MA
“Receiving the library grant will help the school library contribute to literacy efforts. Funds will be used to connect emerging readers with books they can and want to read.”

Ortega Elementary School, Austin TX
“Our books for our youngest readers sorely need updating. Nearly 80 percent were published 15 or more years ago.”

Joseph Battin School #4, Elizabeth, NJ
“Our small library contains only 5,285 holdings—more than 8,000 fewer than the 2012 national average for school libraries.”

Brentwood Middle School, Greeley, CO
“We are a very poor community and county…our county has the highest unemployment rate in the state. Our children depend on us to provide books and computers for them to use.”

Warfield Elementary School, Warfield, KY
“For many of our students, the typical “American” book has not captured their excitement. Students have expressed a want and need to read about kids that look like them, kids they can relate to on a personal level.”

Governor James B. Longley School, Lewiston, ME
“Many of our students do not have transportation to the public library and having books on hand would benefit only our students but our community.”

Oark Elementary School, Oark, AR
“Many homes do not have access to the Internet in this community and because of the long commute students may not be able to visit the public library. The school library and classroom libraries may be the only access to reading materials they have.”

Sheffield High School, Memphis, TN
“Since the award will be used to purchase multiple copies of select novels, it will give students the opportunity to read novels with their peers and have book talk discussions or form reading clubs.”

Jefferson High School, Portland, OR
“The average copyright date for a book in our collection is 1989. And there hasn’t been an official library budget in many years. Teachers have developed a strong and rigorous social justice curriculum. I want our library collection to support that curriculum.”

Caesar Cone Elementary School, Greensboro, NC
“Our children need books that have strong characters. Our children need books that inspire future leaders. Our children deserve a well-stocked school library.”

Fairview Elementary School, Springfield, IL
“The only way that students get books home is through our school library. Having a chance to borrow a new book every week is giving them the chance to be better readers.”

South Magoffin Elementary School, Salyersville, KY
“Most of the library’s collection is outdated and lots of books are in poor condition…our country has the highest unemployment rate in the state. Our children depend on us to provide books and computers for them to use.”

Woodville Heights Elementary School, Jackson, MS
“Our library has over 4,000 books, but many are old and tattered. Nearly 50 percent of our collection is in need of updating or replacement.”

Meroby Elementary School, Mexico, ME
“Many students are isolated from a multicultural population and the experiences that link with cultural exposure. Bringing books to life is an authentic way to help students understand and develop compassion as well as celebrate diversity.”

Tri-County Early Education Center, Larned, KS
“Our school is comprised of students with special needs and their same-aged peers. The majority of our students attend preschool because of speech and language concerns. The books in our library are discarded books from other schools in our district.”

Caloosa Middle School, Cape Coral, FL
“Our school has undergone a significant cultural and demographic change. While the student population has shifted significantly, the library collection remains in desperate need of updating.”

A recent American Library Association’s State of America’s Libraries Report reinforced the importance of school libraries in providing learning environments that enable students to acquire the skills they need for college and career readiness. However, the lack of diverse books for young readers, the report stated, is a concern. Authors of color, as well as books with diverse content, are disproportionately challenged and banned. Furthermore, according to the School Library Journal, librarian positions and funding for school libraries are often the first to be cut.

“Congratulations to the educators and schools that received this year’s Read Across America Library Grants. A library is a treasure house of knowledge, a place where a ZIP code doesn’t determine a student’s future,” said Eskelsen García. “Books represent the diversity of people, cultures, and the faraway places that make up the world we live in. Building a lifetime of good reading habits translates into academic success. Our students deserve access to modern and diverse materials, facilities, technology, books and libraries.”

For more information on NEA’s Read Across America and a complete list of Library Grant winners, visit: nea.org/readacross. Individuals or organizations wishing to donate to the Read Across America Library Grant Fund may do so through the NEA Foundation.

Applications for the 2017 Read Across America Library Grants program are now available at nea.org/readacross. The deadline to apply is Monday, November 28, 2016 at 5p.m. EST. Applications must be submitted as an email attachment and sent to libraryaward@nea.org. A list of award recipients will be posted on NEA’s Read Across America website (www.nea.org/readacross) by December 16, 2016.


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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 822-7823, cfbusser@nea.org