photo courtesy of Sarah Hartman

Local Teacher Fosters Love of Reading with Scholastic Book Sponsorship

November 17, 2021

by katie jones backer

Do you remember bringing home those Scholastic catalogues or attending Book Fairs while in Elementary School? Any bookworms lighting up just thinking about it? Me too! I’ve had a love for books from a very early age thanks to my dad, grandma, AND teachers encouraging me to read.

But what happens to the kids that do want to read more but don’t have the support or capability to purchase them?

Thankfully, there are teachers like Sarah Hartman who have found wonderful ways to promote reading at home, such as: starting a Scholastic Book Sponsorship Program for her First-Grade class at St. Francis Catholic School.

Sarah started her career as a Librarian at St. Francis before teaching First Grade, and with her eight years of education experience, she’s very familiar with young readers and the challenges they face. When a colleague shared an idea she’d found online, Sarah seized upon it knowing it would be a fantastic way to encourage each individual student with his/her reading. And so, Sarah turned to Facebook.

“When I thought about doing this project and asking for sponsors, I did not expect the response I received!” She gushed, “My friends and family really stepped up! I had all 17 of my students sponsored within a 24-hour period, which was mind blowing to me.” Sarah continued, “There are so many important things happening in our world today, so many causes one could possibly donate to, so I thought my little book project would be at the bottom of people’s list. What this shows me, is that people want to be involved in the lives of young students and they want to help. I am exceedingly thankful for the support of the sponsors who donated to this project. There are some amazing people out there who are willing to help when asked.”

Did you catch that? In just ONE DAY our local teacher was able to sponsor all of her students!? Amazing!

Now, let’s get the details on what this means for the kids.

Sarah explained, “Every month, I will choose a two-dollar book from Scholastic to purchase for my students. I try to choose high interest books that my students already know about. For example, this month I chose the book The Cool Bean because we had already read a book by the same author called The Bad Seed [which the kids enjoyed]. I wanted to do this project simply to promote more reading in the home and to give my kiddos options of books to read while they aren’t at school.” Isn’t that neat? So, each month every single student in Sarah’s class gets to bring home a book, and they can begin to build up their own home libraries and love for reading.

And yet, this has grown into an even bigger lesson. Sarah shared, “I think it’s important for my students to understand that people in our community care about them and want to help further their desire to read.”

Their enthusiastic, and heart-melting response makes it all worth it. “My First-Graders were absolutely pumped when I told them that they would be receiving a free book for every month of our school year. A few of the comments were: ‘Do I get to keep this book until I’m an old man?’ Another student said she couldn’t wait to go home and read the book to her baby brother. My favorite comment was made by a little girl who said, ‘Do we get to know who bought the books for us? I MUST write them a thank you note.’ (And yes, she really did say must!)”

So precious! Screens might get a lot of hype these days, but there’s still nothing sweeter than a child and a book.

To wrap things up, I asked Sarah to share any helpful tips with us for encouraging the young readers in our lives. (Keep in mind, the holidays—and school breaks—are right around the corner! Great opportunity to give a book and/or sit down and read one together.)

  • In First Grade, we really build a foundation of reading comprehension and phonics skills that kids will use for years to come. When the kids move on to Second Grade, they really take these skills and run with them. It’s extremely important for kids to have a solid foundation on which they can build. And we want to encourage a love of reading in our students by providing them with high interest materials to read both at school and at home. I highly recommend reading at least 20 minutes per night at home if possible.
  • For book recommendations, there is no one better to ask than your child’s teacher. Teachers want to work as a cohesive team with parents, so don’t be afraid to ask what kinds of books your child can be reading at home.

[The Billings Public Library also has a fantastic Children’s section and helpful team. A child’s first library card sounds like an endearing Christmas gift to me.]

  • Make reading real for the kids! For example, if you’re reading a book with your child about leaves or fall, start a leaf collection and do some research with them. Choose books that are of high interest; books that are based on movies or TV shows are often books that can spark a child’s interest in reading. Take time to learn the things that your child loves to read about. Again, consult with your child’s teacher and ask their opinion!

Interested in helping to sponsor young readers? Reach out to a teacher today! 

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