Struggling third-grade readers in Delaware schools were in need of books that would inspire them to read for pleasure.
Alyson Baker, Reading Recovery specialist at Smith Elementary School, wanted to make sure her students had reading level-appropriate books that sparked their interest.
Baker works with students who have mastered reading at a second-grade level, but aren't quite ready to read books aimed at third-graders.
"I am working with the students on not just going through the motions of reading, but wanting to read for enjoyment," Baker said.
"I tell them that if they don't love it, it's not worth it," she said. "This is why I want to get them books that they will enjoy reading, rather than having them struggle with books that are too hard for them to comprehend."
Baker used a national online organization called Donors Choose that allows teachers to post various projects and ask donors to provide the funds.Posted projects must be sustainable and able to be used for years to come, according to the site's guidelines. Baker's project fit the bill.
Anyone from around the world could help fund the project and write a note sharing why they felt the need to donate.
Baker said many parents of Smith Elementary School students supported the project, as did former Smith students and people from as far away as Tennessee and Texas.
"A librarian from Tennessee gave money toward the project and said that she knew the students would love the books that I picked out for them," she said.
One woman gave money toward the project because her son went to Smith and is now a chemist at a university, Baker said.
The project was completely funded over winter break. Baker raised $400 and will purchase 61 books, including some graphic novels, for students to read daily.
Students have 45 minutes each day to choose a book they want to read for fun. The books will stay in the classroom.
"I think students in the third and fourth grade are really at the time in their life where they are going to decide if they will enjoy reading the rest of their lives or treat reading like work and only do it if they have to," Baker said. "That's why I want to get these books to them now."
Baker said she hopes other teachers will use Donors Choose to obtain money for much-needed projects in the classrooms.
"I don't know if a lot of teachers know about this, but you could raise money for technology, field trips ... the sky is the limit," she said.
"It's an easy, quick and great way for the community to help get materials into students' hands."