Converting a "locked-up classroom with thousands of books" to school library

By Adria Z.
Nov. 22, 2016

When I was doing my community assessment, the Principal of the community school in my village told me that he wants to focus more on literacy. 

Adria's Library - before
Library before

So, I started to work with the Infant II, Standard I and Standard II teachers to work individually with some of the kids who were struggling with reading, as well as doing the occasional reading/writing lesson with the classes. One day, I mentioned to the Principal that it would really be beneficial for the kids to have access to a library, since most of the students have no means of getting their hands on story books. He looked at me and said, "We have a library." I was extremely confused, since I had been working there for several months at that point and had not seen or heard of any library. He took me to an empty classroom that had been locked up and showed me the "library." What I gathered from the Principal was that various organizations had donated old library and text books over the years. However, clearly no one had taken the time to organize these books and the room was just a massive space with over 10 book shelves filled top to bottom with thousands and thousands of books. So, I told him that I would make it my mission to have this library open by the end of the school year for the kids to use. 

Adria's Library - after
Library after

I spent hours and hours sorting through books to find the ones that actually could be of use in a Belizean primary school, and we actually let the kids take a lot of irrelevant or outdated textbooks home to keep. Luckily, the students at the school put in just as many hours into the library as I did, so we had the story and chapter book section of the library open after a few weeks. For every story or chapter book we found, I sorted into one of six reading levels and labeled it with a color coded paper so that the kids could easily determine what book they should read.

Adria's Library - welcome sign
School Library was opened in April 2016

When it finally came time to open the library, it was a huge success! The kids were so excited to be able to borrow a book. One of the more senior teachers almost started to get emotional when she saw it because she said she always wanted to be able to have a school library but had never had the time to go through and sort the books like I did. 

Child reading at PCV Adria's Library
Children love to participate in "Reading Stars" program

Since the library was opened, we started having weekly "Library Days", where each class would come up to the library so the kids could pick a new book. Over the summer, I continued to offer "Library Days" but expanded them to include more reading and literacy activities. Library Day was broken into two sections: 9:30 to 11:30 for Infant 1-Standard 2 and 1:00 to 3:00 for Standard 3-6. Each session, we did an assortment of reading aloud, partner reading, spelling games, and going over difficult words to put on our "Word Wall". Over 30 kids came out at different times over the summer and there was an average of 20 students each day. Since the school year has started up again, we have resumed our weekly "Library Days" and have begun to include more educational elements. With the young kids, we read aloud stories and ask questions to test reading comprehension. With the middle and older kids, we ask them to give a summary aloud of the books we read and then read a story together aloud. We also have a "Reading Stars" program where students can earn stars for demonstrating they read their book. So far, we have seen great participation from the students. Many students have shown improvement in their ability to read aloud, and over 75% of the students each week can demonstrate that they read their books.