Rotary Club donates books to RCAPS and public library

REED CITY – Elementary students in Reed City may be more excited to read this school year after a new book is incorporated in their curriculum.

The Reed City Rotary Club, Reed City Area Public Schools and the Reed City Public Library are implementing a push on the importance of literacy in elementary students. The Rotary Club donated $10,000 worth of books to RCAPS and the library.

The books are entitled “Blue King” by Arthur W. Hoffman and “Andy and Elmer’s Apple Dumpling Adventure” by Andrew J. Shoup, which includes children’s activities.

“The books are about the Four-Way Test, but they’re also about the core democratic values we teach at school,” said Tim Webster, RCAPS superintendent.

The Four-Way Test is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for relationships that the Rotary Club focuses on: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“We want to be more involved in the community and make a difference with the youth,” said Ron Marek, Rotary Club member.

Tonya Harrison, RCAPS curriculum director, said the books will be tied into the elementary school’s curriculum.

“My job is to help make sure that our teachers are not only teaching at the state standard, but to make sure we are implementing literacy strategies in all the core areas,” Harrison said. “Literacy is bigger than just being able to read – it’s comprehending, it’s writing and it’s a whole set of concepts children need to use in their curriculum.”

Educators know if a student is not mastering reading skills by the end of third grade, the student is more likely to struggle in all content areas throughout school, Harrison said.

“We’ve implemented a school-wide Title program to promote our literacy and to give our students a solid foundation,” said DeAnna Goodman, G.T. Norman Elementary principal.

The Title program is offered through the Michigan Department of Education, designed to help disadvantaged students meet high academic standards.

Goodman says the district receives about $500,000 from the federal government to run the Title program – which is mainly based on the district’s free and reduced lunch program.

In Michigan, students may receive a free school lunch if their household provider makes an annual income of less than $11,670. Each additional working family member adds $4,060 to the income limit.

Students may receive a reduced-price lunch if their household provider makes less than an annual income of $21,590. Each additional working family member adds $7,511 to the income limit.

“Low-income families often correlate with struggling students,” Webster said. “Some of these students are more difficult to educate because they don’t have a lot of resources.”

About 55 percent of students at RCAPS are eligible for free or reduced lunches, Webster said.

“Our Title program identifies students by using a battery of tests,” Goodman said. “Then students are placed into subgroups.”

Struggling students are placed into a singular group. Students who need help with only some concepts are placed into a second group and proficient students are placed into a third group.

“Teachers intensely work with these students, especially the struggling students, several times throughout the day,” Goodman said.

Teachers are sent to professional development training programs to ensure they are promoting and using the best strategies for struggling students, Goodman said.

“The government wants to ensure that we are using their money effectively,” Goodman said.

Teachers and administration assess literacy programs and strategies each year to ensure the money is well spent, Goodman said. The school also can assess the students’ literacy growth through standardized testing.

In coming months, Rotary Club members may volunteer at RCAPS by reading to elementary students.

Heather Symon, Reed City Public Library director, said the books will be given away to first through third grade students at the library’s front desk. The library will limit one book per family. Two books will be added to the library’s collection.

“The books have really good lessons for the kids,” Symon said. “They should have fun reading them.”