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Woodstock Elementary finds a way to encourage students to keep reading while ZOOMing at home

DAVID F. ASHTON - Every week, Woodstock Elementary Library/Media Teacher Rosie Lingo has been preparing dozens of book bags like these for students who are participating in the schools Lets Get Reading program. Although the campus of Woodstock Elementary School has been closed to students and most staff for a year now, the school's librarian – Rosie Lingo – has been working with others to come up with a plan to keep the students engaged in reading.

"I felt discouraged, knowing that students wouldn't have access to the library for a while – and little did I know it would be for over a year!" Lingo told THE BEE. "I was concerned for students who rely on our school's library for reading materials. Since we weren't initially allowed into the building, I just kept picturing all of our books sitting on shelves instead of in kids' hands."

But that changed for the better, with the start of the new school year last fall, she said.

"We now have what we call the 'Let's Get Reading' program – designed by Portland Public Schools' teacher-librarians, with the goal to get books into the hands of students despite our libraries being physically closed," Lingo told us. "We began planning and preparation last August, with the first exchange taking place in early October."

Here's how it works: Families sign their young readers up, via an online form or e-mail, making specific book or topic requests, if they have any. Then, Lingo makes up a bag of books, specifically tailored for each reader. Then, every Friday, families come pick up their book bags, or volunteers make porch drop-offs for families who aren't able to come to school at that time. Students return their bags when finished with those books, and exchange for a new bag!

"And I like to include little extra surprise goodies like stickers, bookmarks, pencils, and such!" Lingo said with enthusiasm.

While about 300 students have participated at some point, she prepares about 75 new book bags each week. 

"The benefits that I see are making personal connections – and, of course, getting books into kids' hands," Lingo commented. "One of the best ways for students to grow as readers is to have access to books of their choice.

"And, the book exchange each week also helps families feel connected to our school, despite the closure," Linto pointed out. "On a personal note, seeing students on Fridays and chatting about all things books – and life in general – for a few moments has been a highlight of the pandemic for me, and a source of countless smiles."

She couldn't do this without the help of others, she made clear. She thanks The PPS Library Services Team for initiating and helping implement this program, as well as Woodstock teachers and staff for supporting and promoting the program, and parent volunteers who help with deliveries (in alphabetical order): Anna Langstaff, Barb Lee, Beth Lutz, Jade Chan and Brian Murtagh, Katie Lake, and KyAnn Lewis.

"And, let's not forget to thank Woodstock parents for supporting their readers!" Lingo said, as she turned to hand out another bag of books to another eager Woodstock Elementary School reader.


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