Beacon Elementary School’s Little Free Library stands outside the entrance to the school.

Beacon Elementary School’s Little Free Library stands outside the entrance to the school.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Beacon Elementary installs new literacy resources

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published November 9, 2018

 Beacon Elementary School is starting a new literacy initiative to provide a new library for students and give them access to Common Core-focused books.

Beacon Elementary School is starting a new literacy initiative to provide a new library for students and give them access to Common Core-focused books.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Beacon Elementary reading specialist Vicki Kardynal works with second-grader Lenox Williams.

Beacon Elementary reading specialist Vicki Kardynal works with second-grader Lenox Williams.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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HARPER WOODS — After eight years of not having a library, Beacon Elementary School in Harper Woods is giving its literacy efforts a shot in the arm with the addition of a new book program to ensure that students will have access to reading material while at home.

Beacon is adding a small library inside the school to supplement its recently added book exchange box that it keeps outside near its main entrance. The goal is to not only increase literacy, but to also increase students’ interest in reading as a whole.

“Our library has been out of existence at Beacon for about eight years, so we thought since literacy is one of our most important initiatives here, we wanted to start a new program to stock some shelves with new books where students will be able to come down for weekly visits to check out books, and they can take part in read-aloud programs as well,” said Beacon Principal Kenyatta Hughes.

Hughes said reaffirming a focus on literacy is crucial for Beacon and is a priority of both the Michigan Department of Education and the Harper Woods School District.

“It’s my second year, and I want to ensure our students have access to proper literature,” Hughes explained. “Public Act 306 went into effect recently in Michigan, and that said students need to be reading at grade level by the end of third grade. The superintendent also started a districtwide literacy initiative.”

“Anytime you have a library, it promotes learning and literacy. It’s always a great thing. You need books that connect with children and children want to read that also teach them and engage their minds,” said Harper Woods Superintendent Steven McGhee. “We want the Harper Woods district to have the best possible resources for our students.”

McGhee and the other district leaders are making an effort to ensure that reading is a priority starting at the elementary level.

“We are teaming up with the Eastside Youth Foundation in Detroit, and they have a healthy activity and literacy program where they can send mentors into our elementary schools to promote literacy, as well as physical activity through nontraditional sports like archery or bowling,” he said. “They will support reading with programs after school.”

The literacy program at Beacon will be specifically geared toward integrating students’ reading options with the Common Core English Language Arts guidelines the Harper Woods School District has adopted in the last two years.

“This will introduce them to a variety of literature, and most children don’t like to read, so we want to teach them how to enjoy literature,” said Hughes. “The books we are choosing are being specifically chosen to align with ELA Common Core standards, and each book has a specific subject (kids can learn) like inferring, sequencing, story elements and vocabulary acquisition.”

Beacon Elementary is asking for new or gently used books for the collection, with specific book selections requested to have books available that fit into the Common Core program directives.

“They can contact myself, and we have an ongoing wish list of books we would like to add to our little library. We also have an outdoor library and this new indoor library, so we want as many books as possible for kids to have access to,” said Hughes. “The one outside is up and running, and the indoor one will be up and running in the next week and a half.”

Those wishing to donate books can contact Hughes by email at  kenyatta.hughes@hwschools.org or by calling (586) 245-5343.

The school also will be hosting three literacy nights planned for Thursday, Dec. 13; Wednesday, Feb. 13; and Thursday, April 25, to help educate parents on the best ways to encourage literacy in their children, and to answer any questions they may have.

“They will help parents be aware of and become familiar with resources to support their child at home. We utilize books around a single theme, and we want to take part and participate in encouraging literacy along the same lines that the school is. They also will give parents advice as to how to best do so.”

“This is a great push,” remarked McGhee. “We want to encourage literacy at as young an age as possible and make reading cool for young kids. Parents need to be active in these efforts; you can’t just leave it up to teachers. The first teachers are our parents. My dad was a teacher, and I remember him reading to me, and eventually I started reading to them. It promotes conversation between the family. Reading and literacy does so much for kids.”

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