New books usually go into Colonial School District's elementary classrooms at the beginning of the year with the supplies that arrive over the summer. However, at Plymouth Elementary School (PE), the classroom libraries are now getting a boost every few weeks, thanks to the new PE Book Recycle program.
"The kids know now what's coming," said Reading Specialist Cecilia Quarino. "I walk into the classroom with a stack of books, and they get so excited. They can't wait to get to the part of the day when they can check out the new books."
Plymouth Elementary School parent Tina West heads up the PE Book Recycle program. She got the idea this past summer after talking with other parents who had boxes of books they wanted to donate somewhere. Mrs. West suggested that gently used books could go into PE classrooms. Once school started, Principal Rosemarie Gregitis put her in touch with Mrs. Quarino, and the program launched in September.
"Since we put the bin in the lobby, I've been overwhelmed by the response," said Mrs. West. "There are books at my desk at home to be logged and brought back in on a daily basis."
To figure out which books match which grade, Mrs. West and her daughter Leah set aside approximately 15 minutes every night to go online to a site where they can search the titles and record the guided reading level on the inside cover of each book.
"It's fun when I get to type in all the words," said Leah, a third grader at PE. "My favorite part is learning new words and getting my mind to stretch."
The guided reading levels allow Mrs. Quarino to make sure that the books go to the classrooms where students can look in the bins that match their personal guided reading levels. The children are encouraged to find "just right books" for independent reading during literacy centers. In addition to being on the correct guided reading levels, the donated books also reflect topics and series that the students are excited to explore.
One of Leah's classmates, Aaron Avery, is reading a Goosebumps book that came in through the program.
"I like chapter books but not ones that are too long — chapter books like this," he said, pointing to a donated book from the same series.
Books that don't meet the guided reading level guidelines go to another parent who is a social worker, and some books end up at Cradles to Crayons.
"Nothing is being wasted," said Mrs. West. "Everything is making its way somewhere."
In the first two months of the PE Book Recycle program, the school has been able to put approximately 200 books into the classrooms' independent reading libraries.