Education Feature: Volunteers revamp school library

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Reader Greeter volunteer Ruth Gamel of Grady reads a story Thursday about a paranoid squirrel who learns he can fly to a kindergarten class at the Grady Municipal School library.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ correspondent

Grady Municipal Schools’ interest in increasing literacy and reading in the students turned into a $10,000 renovation of the school’s library.

A group of volunteers, called the Reader Greeters, consisting of parents and community volunteers, began the task of updating the library’s inventory, appearance and feel in April.

“Too many public schools are focusing on testing and we want to focus on learning, especially literacy and reading. And we figured nothing promotes literacy more than a library,” volunteer Denise Shirley said.

Because the school could not afford to employ a librarian, the Reader Greeters took over the project. The volunteers along with Joel Shirley, the superintendent of Grady Municipal Schools, began to gather money through state grants and donations. With the money raised, the volunteers purchased computer software, books, posters and painted.

Of the $10,000 raised, about $9,000 came from the New Mexico Public Education Department.

“We added color and made the library easier to access,” volunteer Curry Cheri Boles said.

The Reader Greeters continue to help the school by staffing the library one day each week as volunteers. Classes from kindergarten to fifth grade come in for a half an hour each on Tuesdays and have story time, learn library skills and check out books. The volunteers have also taught the students how to use the Dewey Decimal cataloging system by offering free movie passes to students who answer questions correctly about the system.

“It’s easier to bring up literacy in elementary school students so the library has been focused on them,” Joel Shirley said.

The school made the decision to buy only perma-bound books so that the books last as long as the commitment to the library, Denise Shirley said.

“The group of volunteers brought life back into (the libary),” Joel Shirley said.