By Steve Robinson | October 20, 2012 - 10:05 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

It’s time for the annual Unit 5 Junior High Book Drive again.

Last year, Unit 5, which had normally done this event at one school at a time each year tried something bold by running it simultaneously at all four junior high schools.

George L. Evans Junior High School, which opened in August of 2011, will take center stage as home of the event this year. The campaign began Oct. 19 and runs through Nov. 2. Books can also be dropped off at the Unit 5 District Headquarters, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., in Normal during regular business hours.

Again this year, teachers are seeking donations of gently used young adult books suitable for 5th through 8th graders. Books can be brought in by students, parents and members of the community. The school is also accepting monetary donations for new books, as well. Donations are also being accepted at the Unit 5 District Office.

Rexie Lanier, a secondary literary specialist for the district is one of Unit 5’s two secondary literacy specialists helping to organize the drive. She explained the drive is an attempt to build up the number of books available to kids in the middle school grades because EJHS is a fairly new school. She said it is hoped this year’s drive will bring in 1,000 books for students’ use.

“We’re looking for gently used books that would be appropriate for middle school students that would go into our classroom libraries,” Lanier explained.

Lanier said literature that would fill the bill (not to mention the library) here are books that are “popular with teenagers or books like you would find in the ‘young adult’ section of a bookstore – just anything that would be of interest to a young adult.”

Lanier said all genres are accepted, so long as it would be of interest to these young adults.

She said that, even with all the family activities and distractions we encounter as we get older, these young people in the junior highs are continuing to make time for reading. Lanier said having libraries – both the individual ones in the students’ homerooms and larger school library – available to them has helped kids find a book that holds their interest.

If you’re wondering if there is a genre the Evans library could use, it’s anything non-fiction, Lanier said.

At the first book drive EJHS participated in last year, where all four junior highs took part in the venture for the first time, EJHS collected over 1,000 books for student use, on a wide array of subjects. Last year’s drive collected about 1,000 books for each junior high. “That was great,” Lanier said of the previous year’s effort.

“We want every classroom library to be big enough to have 10 books on hand for every student,” Lanier said. That means a classroom with 27 kids, for example, needs at least 270 books on its shelves.

In addition to books, book drive organizers will also accept monetary donations, giving organizers the chance to purchase additional books, Lanier stated. Checks should be made out to George L. Evans Junior High School, with the words “book drive” written on the check’s memo line.

Lanier reminded that having all four junior highs involved in the book drive last year assisted in promoting the event to the community. When the drives were held by the individual schools, Parkside Junior High School was able to get 1,300 books during their campaign in 2009; Kingsley Junior High School collected 1,000 books last year, and Chiddix Junior High gathered over 2,000 at their drive.

She said that even in in an MTV-MP3 and so-called celebrity-glutted environment, junior high kids in the district “have teachers who are really promoting reading whenever they can.”

“Of course, we all have those distractions, but all four middle schools are very literature-rich environments,” Lanier said. “I mean, their teachers are talking about books and the kids are talking and sharing about books.”

To Lanier’s last point, I discovered there are book clubs in the middle schools. I will tell you about that subject in a future column. But it is sounding like the junior high schools are off on the right foot trying to get their students interested in reading, and that’s something none of us can argue with.

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