United States of Readers

Lake Road one of two chosen statewide to receive free books ​
Posted on 11/09/2021
Hannah Tooman’s class display their book selections.

Lake Road recently received the first round of free books to enhance the home libraries of students as part of an exclusive program designed to promote literacy among Title 1 schools across the country.

The elementary was one of only two schools chosen in Missouri for the United States of Readers program, a partnership between Scholastic Book Clubs and bestselling author James Patterson through which students receive 10 popular children’s books of their choosing throughout the academic year.

“I’m a reading teacher, so I love this,” commented Lake Road Principal Rondi Vaughn, who spent over a decade of her tenure as a reading interventionist in the district. “Parents reading with their children, and for kids to have the books in their home, is so valuable.”

Vaughn happened to be in the building outside of her contract in July when the phone rang. On the other end, a Scholastic official inquired whether the school would be interested in participating in the new program. According to Vaughn’s understanding, the elementary was selected due to its previous involvement with Scholastic during book fairs, its federal title program status and the information presented on the Lake Road webpage, combined with fortunate timing.

Students get to select two titles from a popular list on five separate occasions through May, and teachers—who are encouraged to preview the books with children—get to pick a total of 25 for their classroom libraries. In total, the campus community will receive several thousand books through the program, which is a logistical commitment, noted Vaughn, but "the payoff is huge." She said that students had been checking in at the front office and expressing their excitement as the boxes began to roll in at the end of October.

“We knew we needed to come up with an alternative to our tried and true model [of discounted prices], because every child needs to be able to choose and own books, and see themselves as a reader,” Scholastic Book Clubs President Judy Newman stated in a press release. “With the United States of Readers, teachers can administer the program with confidence knowing they can truly make literacy and book ownership attainable goals for every student in their class.”

For its inaugural rollout, Patterson, a literacy advocate, donated $1.5 million to sponsor the program. There is a direct correlation between children who become frequent readers and access to books at home, according to the most recent edition of the Scholastic Kids & Family Report, the press release continues.

“…In many cases, kids simply need access to books—and especially books they want to read—to fall in love with reading, characters and stories,” Patterson writes, later stating: “I know that reading changes lives, and I hope that the United States of Readers will not only help bridge the gap in literacy inequality, but really make an impact on the lives of young kids.”

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Cutline: Students in Hannah Tooman’s fifth grade class display their book selections on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

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