25K Grant Targets Literacy

4th- and 5th-grade classrooms benefit from Quakertown Community Education Foundation funding
Posted on 01/10/2020
Photo of Kelly Cramer, Quakertown Community School District’s K-12 Instructional Coach and K-12 ELA Content SpecialistBy Gary Weckselblatt

When Kelly Cramer walks into a classroom, her eyes invariably scan for books. It’s one of the things that makes her the perfect fit as Quakertown Community School District’s K-12 Instructional Coach and K-12 ELA Content Specialist.

When she heard the Quakertown Community Education Foundation was looking to make a big impact on student learning by offering a $25,000 grant, she began developing ideas. Her proposal: “Knowledge Building Classroom Libraries,” focused on fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, which had been departmentalized with a different teacher in science and social studies.

“I noticed students had textbooks and articles, however they weren’t surrounded by books to enhance their learning further,” she said. “My goal was to create science and social studies libraries that all students could access regardless of reading ability, so they could further explore the topics they were studying in class.”

Her plan was one of several submitted to QCEF, which chose Mrs. Cramer’s for its ability to improve literacy for hundreds of students. “I’d like to give a huge thank you to the Education Foundation,” Mrs. Cramer said. “I can’t thank them enough. Mostly, I’m excited our teachers and our students will have access to all of this information at their fingertips.”

Erin Oleksa-Carter, QCSD’s Supervisor of Literacy and Arts, praised Mrs. Cramer and teachers for “coming up with innovative projects to compete for this grant. There were several outstanding proposals to choose from. Kelly’s rose to the top for its greater scope of impact. She’s always looking for ways to support students and teachers.”

The funding was used to purchase 2000 books for 800 students and 20 professional development books for 20 teachers.

Ron Jackson, the School Board’s representative on the Foundation Board, has mentioned the “big impact” QCEF was hoping to make with its grant at several public meetings.

QCEF President Dr. William Tuszynski said the grant is “a major commitment to the school district” and described Mrs. Cramer’s effort as “a creative proposal that fits with our mission. We’re very happy to fund it.”

Each year, the Foundation provides a book to each first grader as a summer gift. “Now we’re continuing to support these children as they grow older,” Mr. Tuszynski said.

Kim Casale, a fourth-grade teacher at Richland Elementary School, said the books are related to the science and social studies curriculum. “It’s a powerful asset to our classroom,” she said. “The books are available on their level. They came labeled and leveled for me. The kids can read and share what they’ve learned. It’s exponential knowledge. It’s a fantastic addition.”

Mrs. Casale said that even before she introduced the books to students, they gravitated toward them. “They’re great books to pick up if a student forgot their reading book. You can tell it sparks an interest in them. Their reading skills are reinforced at the same time they’re learning science content. It’s a really effective use of time.”

During her presentation, Mrs. Cramer said the books “will inspire and support all learners, especially those with background knowledge or vocabulary deficits, by building up these domains through a volume of reading on high-interest science topics.

“Research shows that knowledge matters. The more educators do to build students’ knowledge on a range of topics, the more likely that students will be able to comprehend future passages with similar vocabulary on similar topics. With hundreds of good books to read and time to read them, children will get on the right road to reading achievement.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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