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New books, more connections, teacher says


Students in Shantel VanderGalien’s eighth-grade junior high English classes have 200 new books, specifically chosen to meet their interests, on the classroom shelves.

VanderGalien was awarded a $2,000 grant from Book Love Foundation to help stock her classroom library. To choose which books to add, she asked current and incoming students about their favorite books and genres and researched works that represent different ethnicities, backgrounds and other forms of diversity.

“I want to make sure all of my students feel represented,” said VanderGalien as she prepared her classroom for the first day of school.

Students last school year wrote recommendation letters for VanderGalien to receive the grant. According to a press release, Book Love Foundation awarded 60 classroom library grants totaling $120,000 to teachers in the U.S. and Canada in 2018. Since 2013, the foundation has given $365,000 in grants to teachers in 38 states and four provinces who work to create a lasting love of reading in all students.

VanderGalien said providing books for her students is about more than just academics. “As I grow my library, it is a way for me to connect individually with all my students. You learn about their likes and dislikes. It’s that insight into someone else’s heart and soul, and once you make that personal connection it’s easier for them to open up to you.”

Another goal is removing barriers that prohibit students from reading. According to the foundation’s website, many students do not have access to books and there is only one book for every 300 kids living in poverty in the U.S.

“Our mission is to get books into the hands of all kids,” VanderGalien said.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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