Roseville teachers receive grant for reading program

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 8, 2021

 Students including Joseph Millard, pictured, in Roseville High School’s tier three reading program will benefit from a new program called the Matchmaker Book Club. It is made possible through a $2,500 grant from the State Farm Teacher Assist program.

Students including Joseph Millard, pictured, in Roseville High School’s tier three reading program will benefit from a new program called the Matchmaker Book Club. It is made possible through a $2,500 grant from the State Farm Teacher Assist program.

Photo provided by Angela Houghton

ROSEVILLE — A new Roseville High School program aimed at improving student literacy recently received a $2,500 grant from the State Farm Teacher Assist program.

Andrea Gabbard, an Algebra 2 support class teacher and a member of the school’s Student Learning Team, applied for the funds in January. She said that being able to start the program next month will help students who have fallen behind their peers catch up.

“I am part of the Student Learning Team at Roseville High School and am one of many people supporting tier three classes, which are classes that help students who do math or read well below their level,” she explained. “What we do is something called the Matchmaker Book Club where we can purchase books at their level to encourage them to read something they love. It lets them read something that they won’t get frustrated with so they will finish them and foster a love of reading.”

The goal of the program is to match students to books that are both at their current reading level and involve their interests. The money from the program will largely go toward purchasing books in a variety of reading levels and on a variety of topics in order to achieve that goal.

“We’re targeting this to some of our lowest readers,” said Gabbard. “Sometimes it’s not them failing to read the book — it’s the book failing them. We want to match up the right students to the right books. If you like basketball, let’s match them up with a book on basketball. In normal English classes, you are told what to read, but we want to offer some choices to these students because if you find something you love, you want to keep reading. We don’t want them to feel like it’s work; we want it to be something they want to do.”

The program will begin to be implemented in March, which was only possible in recent weeks with the return to in-person learning in Roseville Community Schools after students spent several weeks learning from home.

“Students will be able to have this option starting March now that students are coming back to in-person learning,” Gabbard explained. “I don’t even teach the class that they are for. I am part of the support staff. Angela Houghton and Colleen McCartney are the other two primary teachers involved. We will bring a cart filled with these books to them in these classes to give them options.”

Gabbard said that, although this is a one-time grant, most of the costs are also one-time only, so it should become an ongoing program that can help students struggling with literacy skills.

“We will be continuing this program year after year. Once we have the books, we own the books,” she said. “It will be a mobile system where we can go from classroom to classroom. There will always be a need for kids to improve their reading, and this will give kids an opportunity to give them choices and get them to foster a love of reading. Every district has students who are struggling with reading, and this should be a big help to ours. I always loved reading, and I want to give that to students.”

Despite the Teacher Assist Program moving quickly to distribute its funds, Gabbard said she still had some fierce competition. The grants were given to educators to implement “innovative teaching ideas.” Gabbard said she was glad others recognized the benefits of the program.

“I applied in January. Forty applicants were chosen out of 200,” she said. “I applied for the grant because there’s a need for the reading program, and I thought this program would be a great way to use money to directly help students.”

State Farm announced the winners Feb. 2.

“As a company, we have a long history of working with teachers, educators and students across the country. We are heartened by the immense response received from teachers sharing their solutions to overcoming challenges,” Annette Martinez, State Farm senior vice president, said in an email. “Congratulations to the winners. We are proud to support you and help you reach your goals.”

School officials were excited to hear about the grant money and lauded Gabbard’s initiative.

“Andrea Gabbard wrote for the grant, so kudos to her. She is a leader in our program that offers students extra time and support in their studies,” said Roseville High School Principal Patrick Adams. “We have begun at Roseville High School what we call our literacy framework, which aims to provide literacy instruction across the curriculum in order to improve students’ reading levels. One of the components of that framework is access. They have to have access to physical, tangible books to read during the day. To that end, Andrea recognized that and wrote the grant, and it will make a remarkable difference in improving their reading level. There is a lot of research that shows that access to books is one of the biggest factors in academic success. We’re excited that she won, and we are excited for our kids.”