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A cool new place to read: quiet, colorful and comfy

Students and teachers pleased with revamped library at Pine Island

Fifth grader Nolan Meinke looks forward to Fridays at Pine Island Elementary. That’s when his class enjoys library time.

“It’s nice to take the time and have a quiet place to read,” Noah said. He enjoys graphic novels, with his favorite being the “Big Nate” series about an “accidental mischief maker.”

Students like Nate are walking into the revamped library to find a bright, colorful room with comfortable furniture, themed displays, a tablet workstation, and hundreds of new books and magazines. All thanks to the efforts of teachers and administrators, along with fundraisers and grants.

The library previously was not a focus, with old books, an outdated card sign-out system and no good way of tracking books, according to Lisa Czypera, fifth grade teacher, who spearheaded efforts to update the library.

“The library was unimpressive, “ Czypera said. “It wasn’t treated like a valued room of our building. “ She said students would often take books home that were never returned.

Fundraisers started about five years ago, and in the first year enough was raised to purchase 400 brand new books. A $1,500 grant from the PTO was used to purchase books, and a $1,500 grant from the Comstock Park Education Foundation went for the purchase of Spanish books to benefit Spanish-speaking families. New series shelves were purchased. The library now has more than 3,500 fiction titles and close to 5,000 nonfiction books.

Parents Pitch In

While the library was closed for the first semester of this year, outdated books were recycled. A new scanning system is up and running thanks in part to parent volunteers who scanned all of the fiction books. Czypera noted that teachers have really embraced the scanning system.

Students using the library can earn “brag tags” by reading different genres of books they wouldn’t normally read.

A Battle of the Books display

“The students are super excited about the new reading nook with the comfy furniture,” said Principal Stacy Reehl. She said it was important to bring in relevant new books, different genres and types of reading materials, and to make the space warm and inviting.

Czypera said a new spinner of graphic novels was filled on a Thursday and by Friday afternoon almost all of the books were checked out.  She plans to seek a grant for more graphic novels. The library has subscriptions for Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic for Kids and Ranger Rick. There’s a special room for Pine Island’s Battle of the Books, an annual event with teams competing for trophies at the end of the year.

Fifth grader Ruby Munger said the library is “nice and quiet” and a good place to read. “It has more space and it’s more colorful,” said Ruby, an avid reader who enjoys nonfiction books and is currently reading one about dragons.

Reehl said the staff wants to continue to create and grow an avid reading culture, by motivating students to read and offering a choice in materials.  Fundraising will continue for future library acquisitions and amenities.

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry is from Evansville, Indiana and St. Joseph, Mich. and a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School and Central Michigan University. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be reunited with some of her journalism colleagues and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools for the School News Network. Read Karen's full bio or email Karen.

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